Arts
group of five dancers pose on stage and all look upward.

Photo credit: Bruce Mui Ghent

Kambara+’s “IKKAI means once: a transplanted pilgrimage” explored unjust Japanese American incarceration, struggles for reparations and healing, and current/future solidarities with communities facing the violence of xenophobic policies.

Innovating To Unleash Creativity

Visionary artists create expansive works that help us experience—and express—joy, compassion and possibility. In 2023, Bay Area artists continued to push the creative boundaries of film, dance, theater and public art. Our grantees are also leading the way toward a more just and equitable arts ecosystem by experimenting with innovative funding and support models.

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation championed their creativity through our grantmaking and partnerships. We were also thrilled to welcome a new Arts Program Officer, Sarah Williams. Her wealth of first-hand experience with artists and nonprofits plays a vital role in supporting our grantees. Under Ted Russell’s leadership, the Arts Team centered equity and trust to better meet artist-defined needs.

“Artists continue to give us hope. Their work transcends boundaries and helps us reimagine a world where connection and care flourish.”

Shelley Trott, Chief Program Officer

a person sits with their leg wrapped over their biceps. the image is cropped at the elbows. The person wears royal blue pants and their left hand and foot and face and neck are painted with a bold maze like pattern.

Photo credit: Kyle Adler Photography

“The Maze & Finding Joy” by Surabhi Bharadwaj/Siddhi Creative uses movement, poetry, theater, animation and 3D projection mapping technology to challenge conventional notions of beauty and the idealization of womanhood.

Creating New Pathways For Artists To Thrive

The existing systems for funding and making art are not sustaining the creative lives of all artists. The Rainin Foundation continues to invest in an array of alternative economic and support models to advance equitable outcomes. A long-term partner for this effort is the Center for Cultural Innovation’s AmbitioUS. This cross-sector initiative draws on core principles of self-determination and community wealth rooted in the Solidarity Economy. The initiative, now at the five-year mark, has developed a hub of solutions that center Black, Indigenous and people of color. In 2023, we made a grant to their newest program, Sol Center for Liberated Work. This multi-racial, multi-sector effort uses advocacy, research, coalition building and grantmaking to secure social and economic protections for all workers.

Our vibrantly diverse arts community is primed to create new pathways so that artists have the resources they need to create and thrive. Emerging Arts Professionals’ Artist Adaptability Circles uses a community-created, artist-led model of grantmaking and mutual aid to help historically under-resourced artists access paid work. This program illustrates how funders can support artist-defined issues and projects that fall outside of traditional grant programs.

Grantee innovations are strengthening and empowering the arts community through shared services. The Guilded Freelancer Cooperative provides administrative functions and essential benefits like contract management, tax preparation and health care. Our funding supports their Northern California office to prototype a new front- and back-end invoicing and payment system. After a two-year pilot, Silicon Valley Creates’ ArtsWeb identified successful elements and embedded those into BlacSpace Cooperative in Oakland and ArtsWebHub in Santa Clara County. Long-time partner Theatre Bay Area is researching and piloting an equity-focused suite of shared administrative services and resources for theaters.  

Artists most affected by historic and systemic harms are showing us how to imagine and build paths to a better world, one that will benefit us all.”

—Cate Fox and Nichole M. Christian, Center for Cultural Innovation, as quoted in Nonprofit Quarterly

COMMUNITY ARTS STABILIZATION TRUST
Celebrating 10 Years Of A Bold Experiment

Video credit: Fox Nakai

In this video marking the 10-year anniversary of Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST), Carolyn Johnson, CEO of Black Cultural Zone, and other collaborators talk about how CAST is an essential partner in securing affordable spaces for artists and culture.

Securing Creative Spaces

The Rainin Foundation continues to catalyze solutions to secure safe, accessible and long-term affordable space for artists to thrive. Using a community land trust model, first-time grantee Artist Space Trust acquires properties through bequests and donations and ensures they remain permanently designated for affordable first-time artist ownership or occupancy.

In 2023, we also celebrated the first decade of success for Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST), a first of its kind real estate holding company for the arts and culture sector. Recognizing the need for a bold solution to the Bay Area’s affordability crisis, the Rainin Foundation launched CAST with a $5 million grant. Over the past 10 years, CAST has excelled at developing a constellation of spaces stewarded by and for the arts community. Its first pilot project achieved a major milestone in 2023 when CounterPulse purchased its San Francisco venue. Our continued funding helps sustain CAST’s groundbreaking, community-centered approach to safeguarding the cultural landscape.

We are an example of how communities can benefit if the arts are equitably resourced in community development initiatives.

Julie Phelps, CounterPulse Executive Director

collage of 18 headshot images

Photos courtesy of the filmmakers / SFFILM.

2023 SFFILM Rainin Grant recipients.

Championing Filmmakers

Visionary filmmakers continued to give voice to diverse stories and advance social change. The 2023 SFFILM Rainin Grants supported 17 projects in various stages of screenwriting and development. Both intimate and epic, these films reverberate with deep insights that challenge dominant viewpoints. In “Blue Veil,” Shireen Alihaji marries music and memory for a first-generation Muslim teenager. In post-independence Zambia, Nuotama Bodomo’s “Afronauts” hero sets his sights on the Space Race. And in Neo Sora’s “Earthquake,” a looming catastrophe collides with youthful abandon in near-future Tokyo.

The 2023 SFFILM Rainin Filmmakers with Disabilities Grant supported three filmmakers—Vivien Hillgrove, Andrew Reid and Daniela Muñoz—whose films expand our understanding of disability within our communities. And five previous SFFILM Rainin grantees premiered at Sundance—a major accomplishment for the filmmakers. Among them were Raven Jackson’s “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt,” Savanah Leaf’s “Earth Mama,” Babak Jalali’s “Fremont” and Erica Tremblay’s “Fancy Dance” as well as Alison O’Daniel’s “The Tuba Thieves,” which received an SFFILM Rainin Grant for Filmmakers with Disabilities in 2020.

The Foundation also champions filmmakers through the BAVC MediaMaker Fellowship, which supports diverse, emerging documentary filmmakers focused on social issues. The Fellowship, along with our investments in Cinemama (also known as the Oakland Film Center) and SFFILM’s FilmHouse, support artist-driven hubs for workshopping films, accessing industry professionals and collaborating.

VISIONARY ARTISTS

The 2023 Rainin Fellows

Video credit: Fox Nakai

This video features the 2023 Rainin Fellows—Mohammad Gorjestani (Film), Joanna Haigood (Dance), Related Tactics (Public Space) and Sean San José (Theater).

Honoring Anchor Artists

The Rainin Arts Fellowship recognizes and supports diverse, visionary Bay Area artists with unrestricted grants of $100,000 and tailored supplemental resources. In April, we announced our third cohort of Fellows—Mohammad Gorjestani (Film), Joanna Haigood (Dance), Related Tactics (Public Space) and Sean San José (Theater). Their collective work sustains the region’s activist legacies, mobilizing a range of site-specific storytelling and community-based creative practices. Administered by United States Artists, this Fellowship is founded in trust, mutuality and transparency that honors the work and varying needs of these cultural anchors.

“Through unrestricted funding and supplemental support, we recognize that the Rainin Fellows’ impact lies not only within the individual projects they exhibit and execute, but in the lasting legacy of their pioneering creative frameworks.”

Ted Russell, Director, Art Strategy & Ventures
dramatic stage lighting warmly illuminates five people who are wearing solid color dresses in complementary jewel tones. Two people look down toward three people seated on wooden chairs, one of the seated people has their hands raise in the air

Photo credit: Robbie Sweeny Photography

Risa Jaroslow and Dancers’ “Talking Circle” featured dancers, ages 25 to 78, who work together to make a decision that will impact each of their lives. 

Embracing Artistic Innovation And Community

Despite the pandemic’s lingering effects on performing arts, our 2023 New & Experimental Works (NEW) grantees embraced artistic innovation in their community-centered storytelling. In “Kinematic/Kinesthetic,” AXIS Dance redefines ability and embodiment by using robotics technologies to assist disabled dancers in exploring new movement potential. First-time grantee Surabhi Bharadwaj/Siddhi Creative integrates animation and 3D projections with classical Indian dance in “The Maze & Finding Joy.”

Other projects grapple with grief and survival and include themes of justice and healing. Sins Invalid’s “Crip Survival: Finding Hope In Climate Grief” reckons with the emotional toll of abandonment on disabled communities at the frontlines of climate disasters. In “YES!,” KAMBARA+ and drag queen Black Benatar (aka Mx. Beatrice Thomas) create a performance experience for teens and young adults about navigating consent and learning embodied skills. And in neighborhood workshops and performances, Afro Solo Theatre Company’sSTOP! SHOW! & CONTROL!: The Art of Surviving A Police Stop” shines a light on the troubling reality of police interactions impacting Bay Area Black communities.

SYMPOSIUM REFLECTIONS
The Power Of Public Art
Dancer waves long, wide ribbons of red, yellow and green sheer fabric in front of a large tree wrapped in the same fabrics. A group of drummers wearing blue and white are seated on the right, looking toward the dancer.

Photo credit: Christine Cueto

Dohee Lee and MU ritual drummers at the fourth Exploring Public Art Practices Symposium, a partnership with the Oakland Museum of California. This event reinforced our belief in the power of public art to interrogate systems of oppression and help us heal.

Adapting Our Practices To Advance Equity

We continued listening and learning from artists through Let’s Talk: What Artists Need To Thrive, a partnership with Authentic Arts & Media. This online series focused on three communities that have been historically excluded in philanthropy: queer artists, artists with disabilities and Indigenous artists. Along with an audience that included other arts funders, we heard artists call for more trust, transparency and accountability from funders, along with greater equity in funding.

Our 2023 NEW Program debuted changes to advance equity. In response to the arts community’s request for simplified application and reporting requirements, we collaborated with the Fleishhacker Foundation and Zellerbach Family Foundation to launch the first-ever Common App for the Arts. This single application streamlines the process for grantseekers. It was designed with replication in mind and we’re thrilled that a growing number of arts funders are embracing it. To shift the power of grantmaking decisions closer to the community, our NEW Program used a review panel of four Bay Area artists to make funding recommendations. Recognizing the challenges to securing operational and project support, we also awarded projects at 100% of the requested amount.

A person holds a tiny 3D mockup of a sculpture, while a second person points to it. The sculpture is a c-shape adorned with black and white illustrations and text.

 Photo credit: Amir Aziz

Clark Bailey (left) and Jena Dominique holding a small model of Shomari Smith’s “10 Points to Liberation” project at Pantherfest 2023. The Temescal Roots Project gathered community insights, stories and ideas to inform this public art piece, commemorating the legacy of the Black Panther Party.

Creating Vibrant Communities:
2023 Grantees

The Rainin Foundation invested over $4.8 million in 2023 for Bay Area arts.

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

Note: Financials are subject to audit verification.

pie chart shows .31 million in program-related expenses and 4.5 million in grantmaking

Supporting Artists That Push Boundaries

NEW & EXPERIMENTAL WORKS (NEW) PROGRAM

Provides project support to small and mid-size dance, theater and multidisciplinary arts organizations that enable Bay Area artists to produce timely, visionary projects. Learn about the 2023 NEW Program grantees.

AfroSolo Theatre Company

Aviva Arts (formerly foolsFURY Theater)

AXIS Dance Company

Bindlestiff Studio

Central Stage

Clarissa Rivera Dyas

Dohee Lee Puri Arts

fugitivity labs

KAMBARA+

Karishma Sharma

La Lengua Teatro

Lenora Lee Dance

Magic Theatre

The Mahea Uchiyama Center for International Dance

Marigold Project Inc.

melissa dorothy lewis wong [the sardine]

The MilkBar

Navarrete x Kajiyama Dance Theater (NAKA)

Oaklash

REYES Dance

Rhodessa Jones/The Medea Project

Risa Jaroslow & Dancers

San Francisco Recovery Theatre

Shakespeare-San Francisco

Sins Invalid

Snowflake Calvert

Surabhi Bharadwaj/Siddhi Creative

tinypistol

UPTOWN TENDERLOIN, INC.

West Oakland to West Africa

Yerba Buena Arts & Events

Z Space Studio

OPEN SPACES PROGRAM

Supports artist-driven temporary, place-based public art projects in San Francisco and Oakland. In 2023, we paused our grants cycle to explore how to deepen our support of artists doing this work and our commitment to the field of temporary public art. The program will re-open in 2024. Learn about the Open Spaces Program.

Changing Systems Together

OPPORTUNITY FUND

An invitation-only grant that offers support for projects that will impact conditions for working artists to help them thrive. Learn more about the 2023 Opportunity Fund recipients.

Artist Space Trust

BAVC Media (formerly Bay Area Video Coalition)

California for the Arts (formerly Californians for the Arts)

Center for Cultural Innovation

Cinemama (formerly Oakland Film Center)

Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST)

Emerging Arts Professionals – San Francisco Bay Area

Guilded

Oakland Museum of California

Silicon Valley Creates

Spanish-Speaking Unity Council of Alameda County, Inc.

Theatre Bay Area

United States Artists

RESPONSE FUND

This discretionary fund supports exceptional and emerging opportunities that will have an outsized impact and move us closer toward our vision of Bay Area artists thriving, all Oakland children reading at or above grade level and no one suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Oasis Arts, Inc.

Corporation of the Fine Arts Museums

Inevitable Foundation

Explore the Foundation’s website to learn more about our Arts program and meet our staff and Board members.