Open Spaces Program FAQs - Kenneth Rainin Foundation

Open Spaces Program FAQs

Explore frequently asked questions about our Open Spaces Program, which supports temporary, place-based public art projects.


Who is eligible for Open Spaces Program grants?

The Open Spaces Program funds projects at different stages of development that feature collaboration between artists, communities and nonprofit organizations to realize ambitious, risk-taking temporary public art projects. Applicants must be either 1) an artist(s) or artist collective who is proposing a project in partnership with a Bay Area nonprofit organization or fiscal sponsor or 2) a Bay Area nonprofit organization who is proposing a project in partnership with a specific artist(s) or artist collective.

What are the two Open Spaces Program grant tracks and how do I know which one to apply for?

Applicants can apply for one of two Open Spaces Program grant tracks:

  • Development Support Grants fund the research, design and planning phases of a large scale temporary public art project. This funding opportunity is designed to advance the early to mid-stages of a project. Grants may support:
    • An artistic idea(s) that needs exploration, research or investigation to reach the next stage. 
    • A solidified artistic vision that needs logistical work, such as site, budget, resource, timeline or materials development. 
    • Community engagement planning, design and relationship development.  
    • Technical research and expertise.
  • Production Support Grants fund the production and premiere of a large scale temporary public art project. Projects that qualify for Production Support must be fully conceptualized and planned, demonstrate technical and logistical expertise, be accessible to the public for at least a month and feature an innovative approach to public art. Competitive projects will:
    • Demonstrate evidence of meaningful collaboration with project partners. 
    • Feature a detailed project plan and defined roles of key participants and materials needed. 
    • Be poised to be implemented and premiered in San Francisco or Oakland.  
    • Be embedded in a San Francisco or Oakland community.  
    • Identify potential challenges and solutions. 
    • Articulate clear benchmarks and learning goals. 
    • Include a detailed budget and budget notes that reflect the project narrative. 

Note: A Development Support Grant does not guarantee receiving a Production Support Grant in a future year. However, it sets the stage for a strong Production Support Grant application. Production Support Grants are highly competitive and applications are rigorously assessed for the stated criteria.

The online Open Spaces Program Eligibility Quiz, which will be taken as the first step of the application process, is designed to help applicants determine which grant track is appropriate for their project.

Must a nonprofit organization partner identify as an arts nonprofit?

No, it is not required that the nonprofit or fiscal sponsor partner organization be an arts or cultural organization. The Open Spaces Program encourages authentic partnerships with artists that expand the role of temporary public art into other sectors and reach new audiences. However, the organization must demonstrate the capacity to fulfill the roles and responsibilities outlined in the guidelines. The organization should also be able to speak to their experience in supporting projects of the nature and scale that the Open Spaces Program seeks to support.

I am an individual artist or artist collective. Can I submit a Stage One application?

Individual artists may submit a Stage One application only if they have a Bay Area nonprofit organization or fiscal sponsor partner who can fulfill the roles and responsibilities outlined in the guidelines.

Can an organization submit a Stage One application if we have not identified an artist lead?

No, only Bay Area nonprofit organizations who are proposing projects in collaboration with a specific artist(s) or artistic collective may apply.

I’m a current Rainin Foundation Arts grantee. Can I apply for this grant?

Current grantees are eligible to apply to the Open Spaces Program; however, we ask that you contact Arts Program Staff in advance of submitting a Stage One application. 

The Foundation will not consider applications from Open Spaces Program Production Support grantees that received funding in 2022. Previous Development Support grantees are eligible to apply.

I submitted an Open Spaces Program application in the last cycle awarded in 2022. Can I re-apply for the same project? 

Yes, you may re-apply for the same project; however, you must contact Arts Program Staff in advance of submitting a Stage One application to ensure that your project meets the requirements of the Open Spaces Program. 


What is the minimum time a Production Support project must be accessible to the public to be considered for funding?

Production Support projects must significantly engage the project site and have a sustained presence for at least one month to allow for deep engagement with place and community. This may be achieved through periodic activation at the site, ongoing programming, etc. If you have questions about this requirement, contact Arts Program Staff.

Is there a time frame by which projects will need to be completed?

The grant period for Development and Production Support funding is 24 months with the expectation that projects will be completed within this time frame. Once Production Support projects are open to the public, they will need to engage the project site and have a sustained presence of one month or longer.  

Budget & Expenses

Which expenses count towards the one-third artist fee budget requirement?

The Open Spaces Program is artist-centered and requires at least one-third of grant funds be directed towards artist fees and expenses. These costs may include: 

  • Artists’ direct expenses for creating the work such as materials, supplies and equipment. 
  • Artists’ travel expenses. 
  • Payments to artists involved in the development, creation and execution of the project.  

The Foundation does not have a strict definition for which artists can count towards the requirement; however, they should be central to the successful execution of the project. If you have questions about this requirement, contact Arts Program Staff.

What expenses can be covered with the remaining two-thirds of grant funds not dedicated to artists?

The Foundation trusts that applicants are committed to the successful execution of proposed projects. Apart from the minimum one-third artist fee requirement, the remaining two-thirds of grant funds are meant to be flexible support for the project. These grant funds may be used towards artist fees, indirect project expenses like administrative overhead and other direct project expenses like marketing. If you have further questions about the appropriate use of these funds, contact Arts Program Staff.

What financials do I need to submit with my application?

Project budgets will be required as part of the Stage One application. Applicants can elect to use The Common Application project budget template 

We will only request applicant financial statements (such as profit and loss statements and balance sheets) from applicants we are recommending for funding.

Is a SMU Cultural DataArts Profile Funder Report required to apply?

No, it is not a requirement for application. However, applicants who currently have a SMU DataArts Cultural Data Profile are strongly encouraged to submit their funder report with their application. 

Additionally, if awarded a grant, recipients will be required to complete a SMU DataArts Cultural Data Profile and submit the Open Spaces Funder Report as part of the final reporting requirements.

Disciplines & Projects

How do you define projects that “expand the boundaries of public art and support artists in advancing their practice”?

The Open Spaces Program is committed to supporting visionary projects and artists that are taking risks, experimenting with new art forms and expanding the definition of public art and community engagement. This may be achieved through unique cross-disciplinary artistic collaborations, cross-sector partnerships and innovative ways of involving communities, especially those that have been historically underserved.

How does the Open Spaces Program define community engagement and what activities are considered to be community engagement?

Competitive projects will responsibly consider and reflect the unique communities they seek to serve. The Foundation is interested in how a project seeks to collaborate and be in ongoing dialogue with its intended audiences. While activities that engage communities can span a wide spectrum, some past examples include: 

  • Community meetings, focus groups or listening sessions. 
  • Engagement with local community organizations and leaders, local business groups and cultural institutions.  
  • Interviews with community members. 
  • Works in progress showings followed by feedback sessions. 
  • Activities that support the generation of artistic content for the project. 
  • Activities that engage participants onsite, including community celebrations and public panel discussions. 

How do you define projects that are “timely, ambitious and relevant”?

Competitive projects are ambitious and explore timely, compelling issues relevant to the artists and communities they intend to serve.  

  • Timely – Answers the question why this project? Why now?  
  • Ambitious – Expands the boundaries of artistic practice and public art; enhances and supports the Bay Area’s cultural ecosystem. 
  • Relevant – Why is this project important to the community it intends to serve? How will the intended community benefit from the project? How is the site/place incorporated in and integral to the project? 

Do projects need to take a certain form (i.e. sculpture)?

No, the Foundation defines public art broadly and will consider projects that may embody many multidisciplinary approaches such as those listed below. However, projects must be place-based and significantly engage the project site over a period of time. 

  • Arts and technology projects 
  • Visual, media and performing arts 
  • Light based artworks 
  • Video and film projections 
  • Sound sculpture 
  • Functional artworks 
  • Socially engaged art practice 
  • Conceptual works 
  • Performance-based visual arts projects 

What are the evaluation requirements for Open Spaces Program grantees?

The Stage Two full proposal will ask applicants to complete an evaluation spreadsheet, which will outline projected year one and year two goals, milestones, anticipated learnings, related key activities, a key activities narrative and impact of the project.

My project is performance based. Should I apply to the NEW or Open Spaces Program?

We recommend reviewing our New & Experimental Works (NEW) Program guidelines prior to submitting a Stage One application for the Open Spaces Program. 

The NEW Program supports a broad array of performance-based projects from small and mid-size dance, theater and multidisciplinary arts organizations.  

The Open Spaces Program supports the development and production of place-based temporary public art projects taking place in San Francisco or Oakland, which involve community engagement activities, span disciplines and are durational in nature.  

Contact Arts Program Staff with any questions about which program may be the best fit for your project.

Application Process

My project has multiple organizational partners. Which one should be the lead partner?

If your project involves two or more organizations, the lead partner should be the organization best suited to serve as the main administrative point of contact throughout the application and lifecycle of the project. The lead partner organization should be the one that is best able to fulfill the roles and responsibilities outlined in the guidelines. If you have questions about which organization should be the lead partner, contact Arts Program Staff.

How should we determine who the Lead Artist is in the Stage One application?

The Foundation understands that artists may be working collectively on the project proposed. We ask that groups identify one lead artist who will serve as a point of contact.

Can my organization submit more than one Open Spaces Program Stage One application?

No, organizations may only submit one Stage One application per grant cycle. If your organization is considering more than one project and has questions about which one might be most competitive, we encourage you to contact Arts Program Staff to discuss further.

Can I be the Lead Artist for more than one Open Spaces Program Stage One application?

No, an artist or artist collective may only be identified as the Lead Artist for one Stage One application.

Can I submit an application to the Open Spaces Program and the NEW Program?

Yes, you may submit an application to the Open Spaces Program and the NEW Program. These are two distinct programs with different guidelines. We recommend reading the guidelines for both programs to determine which projects are best suited to each program. Due to the competitive nature of our programs, it is unlikely you will receive funding through both the Open Spaces and NEW Program.

Does the Foundation accept application materials by regular mail or email?

As part of our commitment to the environment, the Foundation does not accept printed materials by regular mail. All applicants must apply through GivingData, our online grants management system. You may access the Stage One application through our website on the opening date of the application period.  

Fiscal Sponsors, Fiscally Sponsored Organizations & Artists

Can an artist or artist collective apply in collaboration with a fiscal sponsor instead of a nonprofit?

Yes, an artist or artist collective may apply with a fiscal sponsor partner; however, the fiscal sponsor must demonstrate that it has the capacity to fulfill the roles and responsibilities outlined in the guidelines.

Can a fiscally sponsored organization apply in partnership with an artist or artist collective?

Yes, a fiscally sponsored organization may apply in partnership with an artist or artistic collective. The fiscally sponsored organization must demonstrate that it has the capacity to fulfill the roles and responsibilities outlined in the guidelines.

Should fiscally sponsored organizations create a profile in the online grant management system?

Yes, fiscally sponsored organizations need to create their own profile and should not apply using their fiscal sponsor’s profile. Fiscally sponsored organizations will need to upload their fiscal sponsor’s 501(c)(3) determination letter to create their profile.

Should fiscally sponsored organizations list their own board of directors?

Fiscally sponsored organizations should list their own board of directors, advisory board or similar governing body. 

Site Selection

Do I need to have a site secured to submit a Stage One application?

No, applicants do not need to have a site secured to submit a Stage One application. However, please note that projects that advance to a Stage Two full proposal must take place in San Francisco or Oakland to be considered.

Is there a preference for projects taking place in San Francisco or Oakland?

No, the Foundation seeks to support projects taking place in both San Francisco and Oakland through the Open Spaces Program. Preference is not given to one city over the other.  

Evaluation Process & Criteria

How many awards will be made in 2024?

We anticipate awarding between 10 and 12 Development and Production Support Grants in 2024, totaling around $800,000.

What is my chance of receiving an Open Spaces Program grant?

During the last Open Spaces Program grant cycle, 21% of the Development Support applicants received funding and 17% of the Production Support applicants received funding. The chances of receiving a Development Support Grant are typically higher than those of receiving a Production Support Grant.

If my project is granted an award, how much support can I expect?

The Open Spaces Program Development Support Grants range from $15,000-$20,000 and Production Support Grants range from $100,000-$175,000. In addition to funding, grantees will receive additional support to document their project and will be paired with an experienced public art advisor for the duration of the project. The Foundation strives to fund projects at the full request amount, however, given the competitive nature of the program, we commit to funding proposals at no less than 70% of the request amount.

Who reviews the finalist applications?

Foundation Arts Program Staff review the Stage One applications and select the applicants invited to advance to Stage Two. A panel of previous Open Spaces Program grantees, artists and public art specialists read, assess and score each Stage Two full proposal. The panel is diverse with respect to age, race, ethnicity, gender and knowledge of artistic practices and traditions.

What criteria is used to evaluate applications?

The project will be evaluated based on the following criteria:  

  • Evidence of strong, authentic partnerships as a vehicle for creating and premiering groundbreaking temporary public art; 
  • Timeliness and compelling nature of the project; 
  • A meaningful understanding of the unique context of place and relevance to communities it seeks to serve; 
  • Demonstration of a thoughtful approach to community engagement; 
  • Rigor of past work; 
  • The degree to which the project expands the boundaries of public art and supports artists in advancing their practice; 
  • Demonstrated ability to successfully execute a complex project of this nature, including evidence of technical and logistical know-how (i.e., the staff, consultants, fabricators and engineers that will be involved; the strategy for permits and regulatory approvals, etc.); 
  • Capacity to fulfill all grant requirements.