Appreciating Intermediaries And The Artists They Support - Kenneth Rainin Foundation

Appreciating Intermediaries And The Artists They Support

Ryan Coogler and Jen Rainin standing close to each other while smiling for the camera. Award-winning Oakland Filmmaker Ryan Coogler with Jen Rainin, CEO. Photo credit: Pamela Gentile

This is a time of year when we give thanks for family, friends and our connection to our communities. A time when it is particularly important to share our gratitude for living and working on the unceded lands of the indigenous people who stewarded them for millennia, the Ohlone. And we extend appreciation to those who are helping the Kenneth Rainin Foundation increase equity and impact in our grantmaking.

The Rainin Foundation’s Arts program is committed to helping Bay Area artists thrive. Our work is advancing thanks to the insights and expertise of many partners. We deeply appreciate our partnerships with fellow funders, grantmaking intermediaries and extraordinary Bay Area arts organizations. We are especially thankful for artists, who bring meaning and passion to their work and our lives. It is incredibly challenging and expensive to make art in the Bay Area. We honor the many creative individuals who are enhancing our lives through their visionary works despite these challenges.

If you have been following our Arts program, you know that we have been examining how we can embed equity across our work. We have deepened our understanding of systemic and structural racism. We have also acknowledged the pervasive presence of white dominant culture in our policies, practices and grantmaking. Through our Arts program strategic framework, we’ve committed to addressing social and economic forces that limit the sustainability of artmaking in the Bay Area. Specifically, we are exploring what we can do to advance equitable systemic change and address structural barriers in the nonprofit arts sector to benefit artists.

This work, which was already underway, was accelerated by the racial justice reckoning in 2020. And without question, the pandemic has surfaced the societal challenges for artists and other workers living on low incomes who are reliant on the gig economy and who are most affected by our broken economic and social welfare systems.

It is in this context that we continue to explore how to make our grantmaking more equitable. Fortunately, many in our field share our commitment.

Learning From The Field To Advance Equity And Shift Power

Our founder and CEO Jen Rainin has been an active participant in the Trust-Based Philanthropy project. This five-year, peer-to-peer funder initiative aims to address the inherent power imbalances between foundations and nonprofits. This work, done in collaboration with a host of other foundations, has been transformative. Across the Rainin Foundation, we have worked to act on many of the initiative’s recommendations to help advance equity, shift power and build mutually accountable relationships.

Last year, the Hewlett Foundation commissioned a report that demonstrated the role that grantmaking intermediaries can play in helping to break down longstanding power dynamics in arts grantmaking and more effectively reach artists who face systemic barriers to receiving funding. “Creative Partners: How Intermediaries Support Artistic and Cultural Vibrancy” lays out a powerful case for making grants to individual artists through intermediaries, many of which are providing relevant, responsive and equitable access to services, networks and supports for artists in the region.

The Role Of Intermediary Organizations In Our Grantmaking

The field is discovering the value that intermediary organizations can play in ensuring that grant dollars go to individual artists. Intermediaries are more than mere re-granters. They also tailor supplemental support and services to add transformational value beyond dollars. We have invested in this approach for many years. Since 2009, we have supported SFFILM to make grants to filmmakers whose films address social justice issues. The SFFILM Rainin Grant program is the largest granting body for independent narrative feature films in the US. It has made it possible for films like Fruitvale Station, Sorry to Bother You and The Last Black Man in San Francisco to inform the dialogue on race, place and belonging and reach wide audiences. Beyond grants, filmmakers also benefit from SFFILM’s comprehensive artist development programs and its FilmHouse Residency.

We are in the third year of partnering with the intermediary United States Artists to create The Rainin Fellowship. This initiative recognizes Bay Area artists working in dance, film, public space and theater. These artists are pushing the boundaries of creative expression, anchoring local communities and advancing their fields. The Rainin Fellowship draws upon United States Artists’ expertise and that of the nominators, reviewers and panelists from various artistic disciplines to award four artists annually with unrestricted grants of $100,000 each. The award also provides supplemental support tailored to address each fellow’s specific needs and goals, including financial planning, communications and marketing help and legal services.

We remain committed to ensuring that diverse, visionary artists thrive in the Bay Area. We are energized by the results that working with intermediaries delivers. It allows our funding to operate closer to the ground as we share power and decision-making with trusted aligned partners in the community. We will keep artists at the center of funding decisions, and do our part to provide relevant, responsive and equitable access to funding, services, networks and supports for Bay Area artists.

Inviting Your Thoughts And Ideas

We are approaching an expanded use of intermediaries in our grantmaking with a spirit of inquiry and a desire to learn. We are eager for your thoughts and ideas on how we can continue to work with the field to strengthen the arts community and our support of artists. You can email the Arts team here. We also invite you to join us for Let’s Talk: What Artists Need To Thrive, a live series of Zoom conversations.