Dohee Lee’s “ARA Ritual I: Waterways” at CounterPulse. Photo credit: Robbie Sweeny

The Arts Program Matures

Nearly a decade ago, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation’s Arts program started with limited funding and a desire to engage with the people and organizations that comprise the vibrant Bay Area arts community. In those early years, we supported bold, new performances that pushed the boundaries of creative expression. Immersing ourselves in the local arts community, we listened to the needs of our grantees and expanded our grantmaking through innovative partnerships and initiatives designed to help arts organizations overcome structural and financial challenges. By 2016, our Arts program had solidified its reach, supporting inspirational artists in translating their vision into tangible expression. Working with our partners, local artists and arts organizations, we are helping to assure that the Bay Area continues to thrive as one of the most culturally dynamic communities in the world.

Eye Zen Presents “Rainbow Logic: Arm in Arm with Remy Charlip.”  Photo credit: Robbie Sweeny

Our Commitment to the Bay Area Arts Community

Very passionate and inspired people, artists are often impacted by cultural forces, such as economic pressures and the Bay Area real estate affordability crisis. Now, more than ever, we support the artistic community as it adapts to obstacles and overcomes daunting challenges. With novel investments, strategic partnerships, and inspired solutions, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation remains focused on and committed to supporting the Bay Area’s arts community. We are here to stay.

CounterPulse secured a lease with an option-to-buy agreement from CAST for their new home in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Photo credit: Cesar Rubio

Responding to Oakland’s Displacement Crisis

In December, we mourned 36 people who died in the Ghost Ship fire, a devastating loss for the Bay Area community. Just days after this tragedy, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced their financial support to implement sustainable, long-term solutions to create affordable, safe space for Oakland arts organizations. Though this work had been in development for many months, these funds were especially important in light of the tragic fire.

Our investment supported the expansion of the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST)—a proven model for the community to stem displacement in the arts—into Oakland. In partnership with the real estate consulting experts from the Northern California Community Loan Fund, CAST launched Keeping Space – Oakland, a financial and technical assistance program to help arts organizations facing displacement. The initiative also seeded a capital fund enabling CAST to launch a real estate acquisition program for arts and cultural organizations, and funded a policy position within the City of Oakland that will focus on creating and preserving arts and cultural spaces.

Our relationship with CAST began in 2013 when the Foundation made a $5 million grant over five years to establish the organization. The Rainin Foundation is playing an important role in addressing arts displacement in San Francisco and now Oakland to protect our valued arts and cultural assets. We recognized this most pressing need and created the Rainin Arts Real Estate Strategy—a collaborative strategy connecting resources in the community to the real estate needs of arts and cultural organizations.

“Our collaborative approach to the issue of arts displacement has resulted in tangible progress. The partnerships we’ve supported in San Francisco and Oakland, and the model we implemented through CAST, are recognized locally and nationally.”

Shelley Trott, Director, Arts Strategy & Ventures

Total square feet of permanent space that has been secured for San Francisco’s creative sector by CAST

San Francisco arts and cultural organizations have secured affordable space thanks to CAST’s leadership

Amount invested by the Rainin Foundation in 2016 for Bay Area arts

“Block by Block,” a public art installation on San Francisco’s Market Street. Photo credit: Stephanie Secrest

Risk-taking Leads to Insights

The Rainin Foundation is fortunate to work alongside partners who are willing to challenge the status quo, test new ideas, and share knowledge. Our first foray into public art was funding Light up Central Market, an original project that included an interactive bench and platform called “Block by Block.” We saw and understood the impact rapid change was having on San Francisco’s Central Market neighborhood, and we—and our partners—believed the community would benefit from art that brought people together. Collectively, we felt a public art installation was a risk worth taking.

“I love the way we responded when the public art project we supported didn’t go the way we hoped it would,” said Jennifer Rainin, PhD, Rainin Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer. “I’m proud of the way our team communicated to the field and the community what we learned and why we’re evolving as we are.” Read the series of conversations about art, class and race that emerged from “Block by Block,” and why this was an important moment for the Foundation.

“Block by Block provoked a lot of really interesting conversations in the city. And I’m not talking about discussions about art — discussions about what’s really going on in the neighborhood. And to me, that’s a success.”

Marisha Farnsworth, “Block by Block” artist


Jo Kreiter and Flyaway Productions

Performing aerial dances that explore the female body and its tumultuous expressions of strength and fragility, Flyaway Productions offers apparatus-based performance as a medium for social commentary. We invite you to learn about Artistic Director Jo Kreiter and her breakthrough moment in this video.

Prentice Sanders and Jimmie Fails in a production still from “The Last Black Man in San Francisco.” Photo credit: Joe Talbot

Championing Filmmakers

The Rainin Foundation’s work is rooted in the belief that we can achieve greater impact when we partner with others. In 2016, we continued our partnership with SFFILM (formerly the San Francisco Film Society) to support a thriving Bay Area filmmaking ecosystem. Through our particular support, we’ve formed the largest granting body for independent narrative feature films in the United States. We focus on narrative films because they have the unique ability to explore contemporary issues and directly communicate personal and universal messages. They are a powerful and influential medium for social change given the exposure film can garner.

Since its 2009 launch, SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants have awarded nearly $5 million to more than 140 film projects in various stages of production. Films have premiered at:

Fostering Creativity & Experimentation: Our Grant Programs

The Rainin Foundation is devoted to creating opportunities for independent artists and arts organizations who push the boundaries of creative expression. We provide support through focused grantmaking programs.


The insights we gained from our first collaboration in public art informed our Open Spaces Program, launched in 2016. This program supports temporary public art in Oakland and San Francisco that engages communities, and will also build the capacity of Bay Area artists to create public art. One of the first projects of this program was a symposium that brought together artists working in the public space to share ideas and learn from each other. Twelve finalists were selected from letters of inquiry submissions.


Each of these organizations and artist teams was awarded a project development grant to further develop their final proposals.

509 Cultural Center and Constance Hockaday

Artist in Residence San Francisco and the People’s Kitchen Collective

California College of the Arts and Cassils

City Slicker Farms and Binta Ayofemi

Exploratorium and Rosten Woo

Flux Foundation and Bree Hylkema, Dallas Swindle, Benjamin Carpenter and Chrystie Cappelli

Jack London Improvement District and FICTILIS

Kearny Street Workshop, Weston Teruya and Kimberley Arteche

Southern Exposure and Aaron Gach

Support Oakland Artists and Randolph Belle, Jeremy Liu, Brent Bucknum, Karen Cusolito and Sorell Rainu Tsui

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Studio for Urban Projects

Zaccho Dance Theatre and Joanna Haigood

View more information about these grants.


Supports cutting-edge, contemporary productions and those that give voice to current cultural issues or unique communities of the Bay Area.

African & African American Performing Arts Coalition

Alternative Theater Ensemble

Art of the Matter Performance Foundation

Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Circo Zero

Crowded Fire Theater Company

Custom Made Theatre Company

Dance Brigade

detour dance

Dohee Lee Puri Arts

Epiphany Productions Sonic Dance Theater

Eugenie Chan Theater Projects

Eye Zen Presents


foolsFURY Theater


Loco Bloco

Magic Theatre

Mixed Bag Productions

Monique Jenkinson/Fauxnique

New Conservatory Theatre Center

ODC / Dance

Paufve | dance


Risa Jaroslow & Dancers


Ubuntu Theater Project

Yerba Buena Arts & Events

Youth Speaks

Zaccho Dance Theatre

View more information about these grants.


Provides multi-year grants to ongoing programs that support the creation and presentation of new and experimental work, such as festivals, residencies, and space-sharing initiatives. Invitation only.

American Conservatory Theater


Headlands Center for the Arts

Playwrights Foundation

View more information about these grants.


Provides multi-year, capacity-building support to small and mid-size dance, theater and multidisciplinary arts organizations.

Dancers’ Group

Flyaway Productions

Intersection for the Arts

Jess Curtis/Gravity Inc.

View more information about these grants.


Provides one-time grants to respond to opportunities aligned with our strategic framework that fall outside of established programs. Invitation only.

509 Cultural Center

American for the Arts

Arts for a Better Bay Area

Community Arts Stabilization Trust

Emerging Arts Professionals

Illuminate the Arts


National Performance Network

Upstart Co-Lab

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

View more information about these grants.

Explore the Foundation’s website to learn more about our Arts program.