Art Space and Public Art: Where Rainin’s Focus is in the Bay Area

Local arts have always been a big deal to the Rainin Foundation, so I figured it was high time to check in with Shelley Trott, the director of arts, strategies and ventures. She was kind enough to fill me in on some of the most important arts causes that Rainin is supporting these days in the Bay Area.

For starters, the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) pilot projects are still going well, and there are some new properties under construction. CAST’s mission is to create physical spaces for arts and culture groups by acquiring properties in San Francisco neighborhoods, like Central Market and the Tenderloin. Thanks to supporters like Rainin, CAST is helping a couple groups move into newly-renovated spaces early this fall. Back in 2013, the foundation seeded CAST with a $5 million, five-year grant.

Related: The Rainin Foundation Steps Up to Save San Francisco's Soul

CAST just signed a memo of understanding to develop a property south of Central Market. Trott explained that it’s exciting to have arts spaces reopen in Central Market, where they can become part of the economic growth and tech scene in that part of the city. You can read more about CounterPulse’s new building in the Tenderloin neighborhood in KQED Arts.

Rainin also contributed $2.7 million in pre-development and construction funding for a new arts space project. Right now, community meetings are being held with real estate developer Forest City to determine the specific use for the site, taking into consideration what would benefit the surrounding communities. Consulting and staying in touch with constituents is pretty common practice for the Rainin Foundation.

For Rainin, these are some of the biggest local arts issues of the moment:

  • Affordability of permanent art spaces in San Francisco
  • Diversity of cultures
  • Displacement of cultures in San Francisco
  • Public art

Central Market is a major public art focus right now for Rainin. It has been ground zero for displacement, so this is really where Rainin wants to bring art out to the public realm and connect the diverse groups. The foundation recently awarded a $100,000 grant to Luggage Store Gallery to install lighting around buildings and murals, as well as to design and install an interactive bench with soundscape and lighting elements.

Because of the types of groups that congregate around public benches here, the city removed many seating areas. Although this is understandable on some level, it’s also had a negative impact on the community because it eliminated pretty much all gathering spaces in the public realm.

But now, Rainin is seeing more opportunities in lighting and media arts in the public realm, and specifically in Central Market. Overall, the foundation is looking for out-of-the-box ideas that incorporate social practice, community engagement, and involve technology. Murals have a long history in the city that Rainin wants to preserve and highlight, too.

Read: Rainin’s Imagining Central Market

Rainin has recently supported a project called Sights Unseen,the purpose of which is to install public works in six alleys to activate them and draw pedestrian traffic. We don’t normally think of alleyways as art venues, but maybe Rainin is on to something here. It awarded a $150,000 grant to get the project moving. Public street art that you can see and touch will come to Natoma Alley in spring 2016.

Meanwhile, Rainin continues to support local theater, dance and music groups through grantmaking. Rainin is strongly committed to capacity-building work for the performing arts, and typically supports organizations with three years of funding to build capacity. Rainin also looks for visual and media installations to support that will be in place for one to two years.

In other news, the foundation is currently reviewing letters of inquiry for its “new and experimental works” program. We expect to see about 15 of those grants awarded in November.

Read: Rainin’s New & Experimental Works Program Description 

Geographically, the Rainin arts staff has all eyes on Central Market, Alameda County, and San Francisco. Right now, they’re working with three other foundations—the Hewlett Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, and the San Francisco Arts Commission—to think about capitalization and how their individual outputs are really impacting the field. They’re considering better ways to handle arts giving and what opportunities for collaboration exist. According to Trott, the research and analysis phase is just getting started for this, so we’re hoping to learn more about the funder consortium project soon.

Learn more about Rainin’s art giving and even upcoming local performances on the arts program page.

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