Axis Dance Company celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017. Photo credit: David DeSilva

Thriving Artists, Thriving Communities

We believe that visionary artists are vital in turbulent times such as these. They push the boundaries of creative expression to illuminate diverse stories, help us transcend divisions and reconnect us with our shared humanity. At this critical juncture for American society, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation seeks to support and elevate the voices of these artists.

“The culture of a city is its soul.”

Shelley Trott, Director, Arts Strategy and Ventures

Total square feet of space that CAST is aiming to acquire for Bay Area arts groups by the end of 2018

CAST is featured as one of 12 case studies in “Making Space for Culture,” a global showcase of cities responding to the threat of affordability to cultural vitality

Amount invested by the Rainin Foundation in 2017 for Bay Area arts

Confronting the Affordability Crisis

In response to the Bay Area’s ongoing affordability crisis, we intensified our work to secure affordable space for artists and arts organizations. In November, we invested an additional $3 million in the groundbreaking Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST). This grant will help CAST realize its ambitious goal to acquire 100,000 square feet of workspace for the arts by the end of 2018.

Our commitment encompassed further steps to equip a multi-sector response:

  • We launched the Rainin Arts Real Estate Strategy website to share our cutting-edge real estate strategy. We were invited to present our strategy to Bay Area art-makers, city officials in Denver, and the national Board of Grantmakers in the Arts.
  • We deepened our partnership with the Oakland Arts Workspace Group to stabilize, support and sustain arts and cultural organizations in Oakland. Our partners include CAST, City of Oakland, Northern California Community Loan Fund and East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation.
  • We co-funded the 2017 report, Creative Places & Businesses: Catalyzing Growth in Communities, to capture new insights on how impact investments can shape a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable creative economy.

Honoring San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee

We mourned the sudden passing of Mayor Edwin Lee, who championed the arts as essential to San Francisco’s unique social fabric. His legacy lives on in our work to ensure permanently affordable, safe spaces for arts and cultural organizations.

“When multiple voices and perspectives come together—funders, city leaders and planners, artists and community organizations—we discover more dimensions of an issue and have more tools for creating truly smart solutions.”

Kelley Kahn, Policy Director of Arts Spaces, City of Oakland

People’s Kitchen Collective hosted its Groundnut Diaspora dinner at the Alena Museum, a “Keeping Space-Oakland” grantee. Photo courtesy: Sana Javeri Kadri

Keeping Space–Oakland

Keeping Space–Oakland mobilizes a cross-sector partnership to safeguard the city’s vibrant and distinct arts landscape. A blend of technical assistance and direct funding aims to ensure that Oakland’s arts groups are “real estate ready.” CAST is piloting this initiative with funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Rainin Foundation.

In 2017, six organizations received professional real estate training and consulting services valued at $90,000 through Keeping Space–Oakland. Additional, free trainings offered another 20 groups indispensable tools for building financial and workspace stability. And in November, the program awarded $350,000 to 14 vulnerable arts groups to underwrite acquisitions, planning, tenant improvements, or rental and moving costs.

“We bring our expertise in real estate and finance to address the urgent need for safeguarding Oakland’s cultural vitality.”

Joanne Lee, Director of Consulting Services, Northern California Community Loan Fund

Number of nonprofit representatives who attended CAST’s free real estate readiness training workshops in Oakland

Oakland’s arts community has listed affordable workspaces and housing as the biggest challenges

Number of Oakland arts organizations that received financial assistance through Keeping Space–Oakland to secure long-term, affordable, safe spaces

Detour Dance’s “Fugue,” a site-specific immersive performance that features forgotten stories about queer people of color. Photo credit: Robbie Sweeny

Art in the Open

The most accessible art is free and open to all in public spaces. In 2017, the Rainin Foundation announced its first public art grants, advancing our vision of art fully integrated into the fabric of civic life.

The Open Spaces Program invests in temporary public art created in response to the Bay Area sites and communities in which they unfold. We aim to fuel diverse artistic practices, innovative explorations of timely issues and deep processes of community engagement. The collaboration between artists and nonprofits is central to co-creating energized public spaces with each community. The temporary nature of their projects emboldens artists, and working in the public realm allows them to reach broader audiences.

Our inaugural round of Open Spaces Program awards in January totaled $400,000. Community meals, networked sound sculptures and aerial dance performances addressed resilience in communities of color, climate change and neighborhood transformation.

For our second round, we selected ten finalists in September, reflecting a wide interplay of artistic practices and issues. Each finalist received a grant of $5,000 to further develop their proposal. In addition to funding, the Foundation also hosts a symposium and workshops for artists to gain inspiration, knowledge and skills for working in public art.

“On the blocks where we’re setting tables, people are being displaced. Our community meals are a healing and connecting space that amplify the presence of people of color in West Oakland.”

Jocelyn Jackson, People’s Kitchen Collective

“Monsters and Men” examines police brutality from three perspectives. Photo credit: Alystyre Julian

Social Justice on the Silver Screen

Since 2009, our partnership with SFFILM (formerly the San Francisco Film Society) has supported nearly 70 narrative film projects. At more than $4.5 million, our grantmaking to independent filmmakers is the largest in the United States. Our funding elevates social justice themes and Bay Area voices that are typically underrepresented in the commercial film world.

In 2017, SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants awarded $550,000 to 15 projects, and launched discretionary loans to filmmakers in post-production.

Grantees have gained national and international visibility. Geremy Jasper’s breakthrough film, Patti Cake$, was one of the biggest buys of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Three grantee projects screened at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, including Monsters & Men, Reinaldo Marcus Green’s exploration of police violence, racial profiling, and the power of perspective.

“As funders, we have an obligation to think beyond dated assumptions and best practices designed for another time.”

Shelley Trott, Director of Arts Strategy and Ventures

NAKA Dance Theater’s “Buscarte” contemplates the effect of the trauma of the violent disappearance of 43 students from Guerrero, Mexico. Photo credit: Scott Tsuchitani

Funding the Future

The Rainin Foundation has an abiding commitment to uplifting Bay Area communities through the arts. In 2017, our Impact Program awarded $405,000 to three arts organizations for multi-year capacity-building. These and previous grantees have achieved important short-term outcomes. But attaining true sustainability is an enduring challenge for many organizations. We put this program on hold in April as we embarked on a new strategic planning process that will explore leading edge support systems for artists.

In July, we welcomed Ted Russell as Associate Director of Arts Strategy and Ventures. Adding Russell’s decades of expertise to the Arts team was timely. His deep understanding of the arts ecosystem has been instrumental to analyzing strategies for supporting visionary artists and organizations.

Accelerating technological and economic change has defied conventional understanding of best practices, and created systemic challenges to nonprofit vitality. Many small to mid-size arts nonprofits are stymied in their quest to remain financially stable or grow. Our year-long strategic investigation revealed three problem-solving touchstones:

  • Change will require innovation and challenging old philanthropic paradigms
  • Building partnerships will be essential to achieving systemic change
  • Unfettered creativity springs from support systems that are cost-effective, reliable and resilient

Stay tuned for a 2018-2021 strategy snapshot coming in Spring 2018.

“The Impact Program created a place where we as artists felt safe, open, and honest to share the reality of our organizations. So often, we work in silos and the opportunity to get together to hear people’s ideas and experiences is very meaningful.”

Annika Presley, Managing Director, Amy Seiwert’s Imagery

Shotgun Players’ bold theater inspires and challenges audiences to re-examine their lives, community and the ever-changing world around us. Photo credit: Cheshire Isaacs

Fueling Creativity: 2017 Grantees

The Rainin Foundation is committed to creating opportunities for independent artists and arts organizations that push the boundaries of creative expression.


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

3Girls Theatre Company


Afro Urban Society

Aggregate Space Gallery

B4BEL4B Gallery


Circo Zero



Custom Made Theatre Company

Deep Waters Dance Theater

Erika Chong Shuch Performance Project


Fresh Meat Productions

Funsch Dance Experience

Golden Thread Productions

Joe Goode Performance Group

The Lab SF

Lenora Lee Dance

Liss Fain Dance, Inc.

Magic Theatre Inc.

Margaret Jenkins Dance Studio Inc.

The Marsh

Marin Theatre Company

Mission Cultural Center For Latino Arts

Navarrete x Kajiyama Dance Theater

Pro Arts

Push Dance Company


San Francisco Playhouse

Scott Wells and Dancers


Ubuntu Theater Project


Provides multi-year grants to ongoing programs that support the creation and presentation of new and experimental work. Invitation only. View more information about these grants.

Crowded Fire Theater

Cutting Ball Theater


Epiphany Productions


Provides multi-year, capacity-building support to small and mid-size dance, theater and multidisciplinary arts organizations. View more information about these grants.

Hope Mohr Dance

Shotgun Players

Theatre Bay Area


Supports nonprofit organizations to partner with artists to create temporary, place-based public art projects in San Francisco and Oakland. In January 2017, the following teams received Open Spaces Program grants. View more information about these grants.

People’s Kitchen Collective and AIR-SF

The Exploratorium & Rosten Woo

Zaccho Dance Theatre, Joanna Haigood, Mary Ellen Strom, Walter Kitundu, and Bayview-Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology

In September, these teams received project development grants to further develop proposals for our 2018 Open Spaces Program grant cycle. View more information about these grants.

Attitudinal Healing with Amana Harris

Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco with Survival Project (Rania Ho, Thy Tran and Bryan Wu)

Flyaway Productions with Jo Kreiter, Vân-Ánh Võ and Sean Riley

Galeria Studio 24 with Alexandra “Lexx” Valdez and Jessica Sabogal

Headlands Center for the Arts with Miriam Simun

Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California with Collective Action Studio (Justin Hoover and Chris Treggiari)

Mills College with Constance Hockaday

Precita Eyes Muralists with Luska/La MaestraPeace 21 and MaestraPeace Art Works

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts with Suzanne Lacy

Youth Speaks with James Kass and Sean San Jose


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

The Center for Cultural Innovation

City of Oakland

Community Arts Stabilization Trust

Multi-Storied Pictures


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