Photo credit: Peter Merts

Artist Cirese LaBerge in the Circle of Engagement for “Future IDs,” a year-long project and community program series on Alcatraz Island with the National Park Service, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and lead artist Gregory Sale. Individuals with conviction histories were invited to reimagine their futures, their positions in society, and society’s responses to them.


When we wrote our 2019 Turning Points, we reflected on a different world. Now, we are all confronted by the economic and social effects of a global pandemic and the many inequities it has exposed. As we grapple with immense challenges what has not changed for me is the need to listen. Listening to you will lead us to the best way forward. With you as our partners and co-creators, we can find our way together. Continue reading.

Charting New Territory

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation supports visionary artists in the Bay Area who push the boundaries of creative expression and possibility. We champion the power of their work to imagine the world as it could be and then to create it.

Artists’ readiness to explore uncharted territory mirrors our own instincts to follow paths of experimentation and learning. In 2019, we created new avenues for accessing resources and reducing the administrative burdens that constrain the creative process. Our goal is to ensure artists have the support they need to create and thrive—now and into the future.

“Arts and culture can build empathy and shift hearts and minds on urgent issues—from racial justice to gender identity. The Rainin Foundation is collaborating with the field to address inequities and create opportunities for underrepresented artists to thrive.”

Loren Harris, Chief Program and Strategy Officer


Further Together

Video credit: Forward Ever Media

The Rainin Foundation invests in collaborative solutions that can transform outdated systems and sustain the creative lives of artists and communities. Watch this video to learn more about how our leadership in the Arts supports artists and a thriving cultural landscape.
Exploring Uncommon Solutions
We believe that existing systems for funding the arts do not adequately support artists’ changing practices. One approach to achieving our goals is to work with local and national artists and arts funders to investigate evolving business models and alternative practices for managing organizations. In 2019, we continued to collaborate with local and national arts stakeholders to test ideas and learn what works.

Two multiyear grants fund pilots to create equitable support systems for Bay Area artists and artist-led organizations. Social Impact Commons is exploring an idea to develop a network of “management commons” for the Bay Area to offer integrated back office support through Comprehensive “Model A” Fiscal Sponsorship programs. Community Vision (formerly the Northern California Community Loan Fund) and Silicon Valley Creates will pilot business service navigation centers in Santa Clara and Alameda Counties that offer expertise ranging from contract negotiation to real estate consulting.

Additional awards support innovations that could improve conditions for working artists. The Center for Cultural Power will help underrepresented artists build their practices, engage in social movements and overcome barriers to success. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is studying the feasibility of a concept they call “The Umbrella” that would offer back office, facilities management and arts employment agency services to artists. And, the recently displaced Ragged Wing Ensemble is designing a cooperative with other small, diverse arts nonprofits in the East Bay. Their goal is to create a network of rehearsal and performance spaces with a centralized booking portal.


New Models Cohort

Video credit: Packard Jennings

Our New Models Cohort, a learning community of six artist-led organizations, is testing ideas to strengthen how organizations operate. Strategies include shared staffing, distributed leadership models, and piloting earned revenue streams through studio rentals and audio description services for live performances.

Rainin Foundation investments are also seeking to address inequities in the field and build artists’ economic wealth by valuing the artist’s role in community health and wellbeing. AmbitioUS, a national initiative by the Center for Cultural Innovation, is investing in “trailblazers” in the East Bay to build out alternative economies and support systems that will help artists and cultural communities achieve financial freedom.

CultureBank will pilot a collaborative investment model with artists and communities. Their distinctive model values nontraditional assets, such as art, language skills and community safety, along with the long-term social impacts brought about by cultural activities. This equitable approach centers the artist’s role in cultivating hidden assets that lay the groundwork for shared health and prosperity.

Photo courtesy of Sustainable Economies Law Center

AmbitioUS investee, the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative, is developing a cooperative ownership structure to help the Alena Museum and East Oakland Collective stay anchored in the African American cultural community of Oakland.
“It’s an almost involuntary response for artists to imagine the world as it could be and then to create it. We share that core impulse, and a willingness to take risks with them and go beyond outdated assumptions about what’s possible.”

Shelley Trott, Director of Arts Strategy and Ventures

Securing Creative Spaces

Our award-winning, internationally recognized Rainin Arts Real Estate Strategy is a proven model for securing affordable space to address the urgent issue of cultural nonprofit displacement.

Last year, the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) developed additional partnerships and investments to safeguard the arts in San Francisco. In the Excelsior district, the historic Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse opened as an arts education and community center. In the South of Market neighborhood, CAST partnered with a real estate developer to create a 10,000-square-foot community cultural center. CAST will own and manage this historic building, located at the epicenter of the larger four-acre, $1 billion 5M Project. Opening in summer 2021, its tenants will be nonprofit organizations paying below-market rent. CAST views this project as a first in a constellation of buildings that will address the issue of affordable space for artists. Next, CAST will venture into artist housing, using a limited equity community land trust model.

In Oakland, we continued partnering with the City of Oakland, Community Vision, CAST and East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation. We’re focusing on building real estate security for cultural anchors serving diverse communities in neighborhoods that are experiencing profound change. Our work draws on insights from our benchmark study, Mapping Small Arts and Culture Organizations of Color in Oakland.


Open Spaces Program

Video credit: Packard Jennings

This video showcases public art projects by the People’s Kitchen Collective, Rosten Woo and the Exploratorium, and Zaccho Dance Theatre. See how the artists addressed pressing community issues, such as gentrification, unequal air quality, and systemic oppression.

Elevating artists’ voices can help us transcend divisions and reconnect us with our humanity. The Rainin Foundation’s Open Spaces Program brings community-connected art into public spaces in San Francisco and Oakland. Artists create visionary projects that invite and inspire community participation and illuminate the most critical issues of our time.

Our 2019 Open Spaces Program awards totaled $625,000 to support five projects in Oakland and San Francisco. Collaborations will engage citizen histories, create identity-inspired artworks and feature public partners. Projects explore immigration, incarceration, the preservation of cultural assets amid gentrification and displacement, and the marginalization of people with disabilities.

In January 2020, we partnered with the Oakland Museum of California to present our third Exploring Public Art Practices symposium. The event showcased diverse public art practices including a keynote presentation by Mike Blockstein and Reanne Estrada of  LA-based Public Matters.

“The way that we’re working isn’t so clearly defined as art, or as food justice, or as community organizing. It’s rare to find spaces where there’s room for all of that. That’s one of the things that I do really appreciate about the Open Spaces grant.”
Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik, People’s Kitchen Collective co-founder

Highlighting Women’s Voices In Film

Photo credit: Pamela Gentile/SFFILM

“Miss Juneteenth” writer and director Channing Godfrey Peoples (right) with producer Neil Creque Williams (left).

Narrative film is a powerful medium for conveying vivid stories that inspire social change. We’re working to ensure that a diverse array of voices can tell those stories, including women and people of color. So, we’re proud that the 2019 SFFILM Rainin Grants supported filmmaking teams largely led by females. One of these grantees, Channing Godfrey Peoples’ Miss Juneteenth, premiered at Sundance 2020 in January. This shift is a bright counterpoint to the industry’s lack of diversity and gender parity.

Awards totaling $425,000 supported the screenwriting, development or post-production stages of 15 narrative feature projects. Spring awards supported films that span genres and a spectrum of tales, from true-life to magical, haunting to hopeful. Fall grantees take on both historical and contemporary stories with compelling intimacy.

The humanity and artistry of grantees’ films capture the attention of audiences and industry alike. Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco premiered at Sundance 2019, winning awards for Best Directing and a Special Jury Prize for Creative Collaboration.

Our unique partnership with SFFILM makes them the largest granting body for independent narrative feature films in the United States. The FilmHouse Residency provides year-round resources to grow the professional and economic capacity of the Bay Area filmmaking community.

“While each of the projects is distinct in terms of story, point-of-view, and artistic exploration, we are struck that all have taken on a deeply collaborative approach to storytelling.”
—2019 SFFILM Awards Panelists’ Statement

Photo credit: Ben Krantz

Cutting Ball Theater’s “Free For All: A New Miss Julie For A New World” challenges the patriarchy and classism present in Strindberg’s original “Miss Julie.”
Evaluating Our Work
Learning is central to making progress and fundamental to how the Rainin Foundation approaches its work. In 2019, we completed a multi-year evaluation of our Arts Program. We set out to answer two overarching questions. First, are we investing our resources effectively? Here, we examined the care and efficiency of program administration, and whether we’re accomplishing our desired program and portfolio outcomes. Second, what are we learning from current grant-funded projects? What can the experiments in developing artists’ support networks or knowledge about their changing creative practices tell us as we look to the future?

This evaluation will inform the creation of an Arts program evaluation framework to better monitor and develop our grant programs. As we dive into the results, we’re excited to use what we learn to further the work of visionary artists and support creative change for our communities.

Photo credit: Steve Disenhof

AXIS Dance Company’s “Alice in Californiland” explores the intersections between people with disabilities and the unsheltered community.
Fueling Creative Communities: 2019 Grantees

The Rainin Foundation invested nearly $6 million in 2019 for Bay Area arts.

Our grantmaking champions artistic risk-taking and highlights important issues facing our society and communities.

Note: Grantmaking amount includes $650,000 of multi-year grants committed in a prior year. Financials are subject to audit verification.

Supporting Artists That Push Boundaries


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.

Aurora Theatre Company

Axis Dance Company

Constance Hockaday


Custom Made Theatre Company

Cutting Ball Theater

The Dance Brigade

Dance Elixir

Eastside Arts Alliance

Eye Zen Presents

First Voice

Flyaway Productions

Fresh Meat Productions

Fua Dia Congo

Jess Curtis/Gravity Inc

Mission Cultural Center For Latino Arts

Nava Dance Theatre

Peacock Rebellion

Playwrights Foundation

Sebastian Chang Chang Gurantz

Zero1 – The Art And Technology Network


Supports nonprofit organizations to partner with artists to create temporary, place-based public art projects in San Francisco and Oakland. In January 2019, the following teams received Open Spaces Program grants. View more information about these grants.

Kala Art Institute, the Golden Gate Library and lead artist Sue Mark

Creativity Explored and lead artist Ana Teresa Fernandez

The Filipino-American Development Foundation, Kularts and lead artist Alleluia Panis

The National Park Service, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and lead artist artist Gregory Sale

The Spanish-Speaking Unity Council of Alameda County and Oakland Public Library with lead artists Sergio de la Torre and the Collective Action Studio’s Justin Hoover and Chris Treggiari

In August, these teams received project development grants to further develop proposals for our 2020 Open Spaces Program grant cycle. View more information about these grants.
Acción Latina and Paul S. Flores

Attitudinal Healing Connection, Inc., with Amana Harris and Jack Leamy

California College of the Arts and 100DaysAction

Chinatown Community Development Center, with Lenora Lee and Francis Wong

Dancers’ Group, with Ellen Sebastian Chang and Amara Tabor-Smith

Destiny Arts Center, with Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Brett Cook and Sarah Crowell

Eastside Arts Alliance and Marshall Trammell

Mujeres Unidas y Activas, with Debby Kajiyama and José Navarrete

PODER (People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights), with Fernando Martí, Edward Willie and Edgar Xochitl Flores

PolicyLink, with Jeremy Liu, Michael “A Scribe Called Quess?” Moore and Michael Orange

Changing Systems Together


An invitation only grant that offers support for projects that will impact conditions for working artists to help them thrive. View more information about these grants.

The Center for Cultural Power

Community Vision and Silicon Valley Creates


Ragged Wing Ensemble

Social Impact Commons

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Community Vision, Safer DIY Spaces


A Decade Of Visionary Projects

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation celebrated 10 years of formal grantmaking in 2019. See the incredible work of our Arts grantees and what we’ve learned along the way.

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