California's Central Valley farmers may be facing a horrendous drought, but fortunately, it's raining for regional arts organizations, thanks to the Fresno Regional Foundation. As of late January, the foundation began accepting applications for $200,000 in grants, which will be awarded to arts and culture projects around the region.
The foundation is “seeking out smaller organizations and individuals who are experimenting with these new ideas and engaging their community in the process,” according to foundation CEO Dan DeSantis. To accomplish this, half of the $200,000 will be allocated to a joint-program with the James Irvine Foundation called "Pilot Projects: Engagement Pathways," designed for organizations with operating budgets of $100,000 or less.
The remaining funding will be granted through the foundation's traditional Arts and Culture grant cycle. Grants between $1,000-$10,000 will be issued to fund “approaches that support art experiences for more audience relevance and creating art experiences that are meaningful to more people."
Ultimately, the foundation is looking to fund organizations that support:
- culturally relevant art forms that reflect and serve the Central San Joaquin Valley’s diverse population.
- arts and culture activities that engage under-served communities.
- arts and culture activities that increase academic success.
We encourage interested organizations to take a closer look at the grant requirements. Upon doing so, three key themes will emerge: accessibility, audience relevance, and the concept of "meaningful experiences." If organizations can effectively speak to each of these three ideas, their odds will dramatically improve.
One final point: It goes without saying that the awards will provide much-needed good news for California's beleaguered Central Valley. The region has been experiencing a crippling drought, further compounding systemic economic woes built on the agriculture industry. And while analysts are predicting moderate growth for the Central Valley as a whole, Fresno, in particular, will continue to lag in California's state-wide recovery. Analysts peg the city's job growth at a meager 1.3 percent.
We mention these economic realities because as we all know, no funding exists in a vacuum. In cities facing severe economic hardship, nonprofit organizations have to frame their requests within the context of a larger economic landscape where arts funding is low on the government's priority list. For organizations applying for Fresno Regional Foundation grants, this harsh reality needs to be front and center. As the city trails their counterparts around the state, private funding for arts programming is more critical than ever.