Afro Urban Society’s “Bakanal.” Photo credit: Brooke Anderson Photography

Centering our Work on Artists

Visionary artists push the boundaries of creative expression, tell diverse stories, and reflect on contemporary issues relevant to our lives and the world around us. Their creativity is essential to thriving communities—reconnecting us with each other and our humanity.

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation seeks to elevate artists’ voices and encourage experimentation. To help unleash their creativity, we are working to transform how artists secure and sustain the resources they need. We believe we have an obligation to think beyond dated assumptions and practices designed for another time. In 2018, we adapted our Arts strategy to respond to the realities of today’s arts economy and center our work on artists and the creative process.


People’s Kitchen Collective

A 500-person meal in the streets of West Oakland, California, brought together artists, activists, musicians, performers, and social justice organizations to honor the shared struggle, resilience and healing remedies of people of color. Watch the video to learn more about this visionary art project by the People’s Kitchen Collective. Video credit: Jamie DeWolf. 

“As embedded actors in the current system, it’s challenging for us to author a new system. However, we can support experiments and practices that challenge the status quo, build a bridge to a future system, and empower future generations.”

Shelley Trott, Director, Arts Strategy and Ventures

Leading Systemic Change Together

Our Arts framework draws on our core values by embracing a collaborative spirit of inquiry and desire to learn. Two new initiatives tap the experiences and creative insights of Bay Area arts organizations and other partners. Together, we are exploring solutions to improve systems and help organizations access resources they need to flourish.

The New Models Cohort is comprised of six artist-led grantee organizations. Their research, discovery and experimentation process is generating new ideas for modernizing traditional nonprofit models to sustain artists’ practices and artistic production, which is especially critical in today’s economy.

New Artists Pathways brings together artists and national funders to study systemic inequities that limit creativity. In a series of thinktank meetings, we looked at numerous challenges artists face. Chief among them are economic uncertainty, dwindling philanthropic support and perceived lack of social value for their creative work.

New Models, New Pathways

What we learned from these initiatives shaped our 2018 Opportunity Fund investments. We are especially excited about a two-year $500,000 grant to the Center for Cultural Innovation’s AmbitioUS program. This is the first national initiative designed to fast-track alternative economic systems to support the financial self-determination of artists. It will build cross-sector relationships, invest in changemakers and use knowledge and capital to help the field.

Additional grants totaling $150,000 to six Bay Area and national organizations reflect how we’re thinking differently about capacity. Funds will go toward the research and development of “network of services” models—systems that share resources that organizations typically need, such as legal, marketing or financial management. The aim is to create efficiencies and economies of scale that support individual artists and artist-led organizations.

The design of these promising new ideas will consider the ways in which the traditional nonprofit system has favored Western European art forms and will advance the potential for shared resource models to address these inequities in the field. We also want to relieve and reduce the administrative burdens that artists face in managing their nonprofits, enabling them to focus on their art.

“AmbitioUS will shape the next generation of artist-support infrastructure, encouraging more just and sustainable economic systems and situating arts and culture as strategic leverage for change.”

Angie Kim, President and CEO, Center for Cultural Innovation


Zaccho Dance Theatre

“Picture Bayview” celebrates the dreams and aspirations of residents of Bayview-Hunter’s Point in San Francisco, as the neighborhood enters a period of economic and demographic transformation. Watch the video to learn about this visionary art project by Zaccho Dance Theatre, Joanna Haigood, Mary Ellen Strom, Walter Kitundu and BAYCAT. Video credit: Jamie DeWolf

Community-Connected Public Art

The Rainin Foundation’s Open Spaces Program brings art into public spaces in San Francisco and Oakland to connect people. These temporary projects allow artists to respond to pressing community issues. Artists partner with local organizations to promote the diverse voices and underrepresented histories of people living in these communities.

In 2018, we awarded $367,000 to support cross-disciplinary projects that upend notions of static public art. In mobile units, on public transit or in midair, grantees explored transgender activism, women’s rights, displacement and gentrification. We’re proud of how grantees are bringing people together and inspiring dialogue. In September, we announced ten finalists for our 2019 Open Spaces Program awards, spanning issues from cultural survival to immigration and incarceration. 

We hosted our second Exploring Public Art Practices symposium. The artist speakers inspired deep conversations about the concept of place and engaging communities in the public realm. The Rainin Foundation also supported Art Practical to continue these types of artist conversations. The online series “Between You & Me” pairs artistic collaborators to reveal the range of ideas and perspectives that inspire their art.

“Our work unites aerial dance, video and music to shift misperceptions and celebrate the Bayview Hunters Point community. When you hear people share their stories, you have a sense of their deeper humanity.”

Joanna Haigood, Artistic Director, Zaccho Dance Theater

Unity Council “2013 Day of the Dead.” Photo courtesy: Akonadi Foundation

Mapping Oakland’s Vibrant Arts Landscape

Oakland is home to a vibrant array of communities of color. But their creative contributions occupy a surprisingly unmapped landscape. In partnership with Akonadi Foundation, we commissioned Creative Equity Research Partners to research this information gap. They developed an award-winningfirst-of-its-kind benchmark report about Oakland’s small, grassroots arts and culture organizations. We jointly presented our report at Grantmakers in the Arts’ “Race, Space, and Place” conference.

Our findings reveal resilient groups that build social bonds, address critical community issues and nourish a strong sense of place. They also highlight the lack of reliable, sustainable funding. This vulnerability is compounded by rising operating costs and deeply rooted social and financial inequities. Our report urges funders and the broader community to do more to support these valuable community assets. It includes recommendations for more intentional strategies to invest in the long-term stability of Oakland’s dynamic grassroots arts sector. Our hope is to sustain an artistic legacy that matches the city’s vitality and racial and economic diversity.

Through Keeping Space–Oakland, the Community Arts Stabilization Trust is also building our understanding of Oakland’s arts-centered hybrids models. The results of this two-year pilot initiative echoed findings in our benchmark report. In particular, Oakland’s grassroots cultural organizations are highly resourceful, but remain undercapitalized and often rely on alternative operating models.

“We cannot overstate the value of Oakland’s grassroots organizations and the contributions they make to the health and well-being of the city.”

Shelley Trott, Director of Arts Strategy and Ventures


Oakland’s Distinctive Arts Landscape


Percentage of mapped grassroots arts and cultural organizations that serve diverse communities of color

Lack of fiscal sponsorship capacity and the limited availability of general operating funds are central challenges

Securing Affordable Space

The Bay Area’s ongoing crisis of affordability is pushing out artists and nonprofits. The Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) exemplifies our leadership and informed risk-taking around real estate. In 2018, Rainin Foundation funding helped CAST achieve an ambitious goal of acquiring 100,000 square feet of space for the arts. This space was secured in San Francisco and Oakland, including 447 Minna, CAST’s first partnership with a national real estate development company, as well as the Geneva Car Barn, a project with the City of San Francisco.

As a model that can be adapted to cities, CAST is internationally recognized for its pioneering role in securing permanent, affordable space for the arts. CAST talked about its efforts and impact at the 2018 World Cities Cultures Summit. We were thrilled to learn that the City of London launched its version of CAST in early 2019 to reduce cultural displacement. And there are other cities looking to the Bay Area and CAST for ideas, including Auckland, Tel Aviv and Amsterdam.

“We steal the best ideas from each other…London has been completely inspired by the San Francisco CAST model to the extent that we are setting up our own version of it.”

Justine Simons, London’s Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries

Lakeith Stanfield (left) and director Boots Riley on the set of “Sorry to Bother You,” an Annapurna Pictures release.  Photo credit: Peter Prato / Annapurna Pictures

Oakland’s Silver Screen Success

In 2018, the SFFILM Rainin Grant program celebrated ten years of supporting filmmakers. Our partnership with SFFILM has created the largest nonprofit financing resource for narrative features in the US. SFFILM Rainin Grants support projects that call attention to social justice issues and voices that are typically absent in commercial films.

Oakland and matters of race figured prominently in 2018’s standout films by grantees. In his directorial and screenwriting debut, Sorry to Bother You, Oakland-based Boots Riley created a dark satire about race and capitalist greed. East Bay native Nijla Mu’min wrote and directed Jinn. Her coming-of-age tale of a young Black Muslim girl in Oakland traverses “Oaktown’s” complex, multilayered cultural landscape. Completing the list is the Oscar-winning Black Panther by Oakland-native Ryan Coogler. His 2014 debut feature Fruitvale Station—capturing a tragic story with continuing resonance—was supported by an SFFILM Rainin Grant.

SFFILM Rainin Grants awarded $490,000 last year to 17 narrative feature projects. They include tales of change seekers, unlikely heroes and immigrant alienation. Two grantee films—Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco and Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s The Mustang—screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

“Each of these filmmakers is creating a rich and singular world while wrestling with essential social justice issues.” 

—2018 SFFILM Rainin Awards Panelists’ Statement

New Models Cohort member Crowded Fire Theater’s “Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.” Photo credit: Alessandra Mell

Investing in Visionaries: 2018 Grantees

The Rainin Foundation invested over $6 million in 2018 for Bay Area arts.

Arts grantmaking encourages artistic risk-taking and highlights important issues facing our society and communities.

Note: Financials are subject to audit verification


Provides project support to small and mid-size dance, theater and multidisciplinary arts organizations that enable Bay Area artists to produce timely, visionary projects. View more information about these grants.

AfroSolo Theatre Company

Anne Bluethenthal and Dancers

Art of the Matter Performance Foundation

Bayview Opera House Inc.

Black Artists Contemporary Cultural Experience

Campo Santo

Central Works

Circuit Network

Dancing Earth Creations

Fools Fury Theater



Idris Ackamoor and Cultural Odyssey

Kinetech Arts

La Peña Cultural Center Inc.

Monique Jenkinson/Fauxnique

Nina Haft & Company

Playground Inc.

Ragged Wing Ensemble

Ubuntu Theater Project Inc.

Urban Jazz Dance Company



Supports nonprofit organizations to partner with artists to create temporary, place-based public art projects in San Francisco and Oakland. In January 2018, the following teams received Open Spaces Program grants. View more information about these grants.

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

Galería de la Raza, curator Alexandra “Lexx” Valdez and artist-in-residence Jessica Sabogal

Youth Speaks, Brian Santiago, Joan Osato and Sean San Jose

In September, these teams received project development grants to further develop proposals for our 2019 Open Spaces Program grant cycle. View more information about these grants.

Advaita Society (aka Kala Art Institute) with Sue Mark

Anne Bluethenthal and Dancers with Anne Bluethenthal and Ian Winters

Betti Ono with Zakiya Harris & Tongo Eisen-Martin

Creativity Explored with Ana Teresa Fernandez

Filipino American Development Foundation with Lian Ladia and Kimberly Arteche

Friends of Peralta Hacienda Historical Park with Dohee Lee, Norman Gee, and Elizabeth Marley and 14 day laborers/artist participants (Adriana Martínez, Alex Cruz, Carolina López, Carlos Guzmán, Daniel Alfaro, Francisco Pablo, Hermelinda Sánchez, Israel Funes, María Natividad Santiago, Mario Pina, Miguel González, Ricardo López, Ramón Carrillo and Dilmar Funes)

Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy with Gregory Sale in collaboration with Dr. Luis Garcia, Kirn Kim, Ryan Lo, and Sabrina Reid

Imprint City with The Flaming Lotus Girls

Precita Eyes Muralists with Edge of Discovery and Maestrapeace Artworks artists

Spanish Speaking Unity Council of Alameda County with Collective Action Studio


An invitation only grant that supports unique projects to keep arts in the Bay Area thriving. View more information about these grants.

Art Practical

Center for Cultural Innovation

City of Oakland

Community Initiatives

CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia, Inc.

Fractured Atlas, Inc.


Northern California Community Loan Fund

Northern California Grantmakers


Silicon Valley Creates

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

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