A Closer Look At The James Irvine Foundation's New California Arts Fund

The new disaster film San Andreas envisions the earthquake-induced destruction of California. It stars Dwayne Johnson, also known as The Rock, and its trailer features a gargantuan tidal wave enveloping the Golden Gate Bridge.

As a resident of the Golden State, I find it all a bit disconcerting, so forgive me for focusing today on a philanthropic organization that's creating, rather than destroying, things here in California.

The organization in question, not surprisingly, is the James Irvine Foundation. And rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a movie (that will likely do tremendous business overseas) featuring an exploding Hoover Dam (as per the trailer), Irvine's New California Arts Fund will help arts nonprofits "move arts engagement to the core of who they are and what they do." The fund provides a combination of support for organization capacity building and for arts engagement programming that encourages and expands participation in the arts among California's growing and diverse communities. How constructive.

Irvine selected the ten grantee-partners through an invitation-only process. They include Bowers Museum, California Shakespeare Theater, Cornerstone Theater Company, Ford Theatre Foundation, Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, Oakland Museum of California, Pacific Symphony, Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, The Music Center/Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. 

"This new fund will allow the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) to address urgent needs in our community, while bringing community participation into the very core functions of the museum,” said museum director and CEO Lori Fogarty. "We aim to inspire residents of the OMCA’s surrounding neighborhoods and the broader Oakland community to connect to their personal creativity and express their cultural identity, as well as respond to important community needs with resources, cultural leaders, and partner organizations."

Not invited? Fear not. Check out and apply for Irvine's equally cool Exploring Engagement Fund, which provides risk capital for arts nonprofits with innovative ideas about how to engage new and diverse participants. It's their only fund with an open application process, and they're welcoming applications through December 2015.

And as for San Andreas, the LA Times spoke with Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center and USC professor, who said that the San Andreas fault can't create a tsunami that would inundate San Francisco.

How comforting.