Christensen Fund: Grants for the Bay Area

OVERVIEW: The Christensen Fund works to improve cultural diversity through the arts. The Bay Area grantmaking program provides funds to universities, museums, art centers, film festivals, gardens, and other cultural entities to explore connections between biological diversity and cultural expression.

FUNDING AREAS: Cultural diversity, local indigenous communities, art, music, dance, museums

IP TAKE: Although the Christensen Fund has a large international presence, it has a Bay Area-specific program, so nonprofits will compete only against their neighbors for local grants.

PROFILE: Established in 1957, the Christensen Fund is a philanthropic foundation that has gone global but remained true to its local roots. The fund was founded in San Francisco by Allen and Carmen Christensen, and since the 1970s, it has focused on charitable and educational activities and the acquisition of fine arts and ethnographic artifacts. Allen Christensen made his fortune as a civil and mining engineer and president of the Utah Mining Construction Company along the Pacific Rim. Although mining was his business, his interests were eclectic travel and art collecting. His wife, Carmen, was a public school teacher, artist, and instructor of studio arts. During the 1980s and 1990s, the couple's interests gravitated toward Indonesian and Japanese textiles, classical Chinese art, Ethiopian Coptic crosses, and indigenous traditions of Papua New Guinea. Grantmaking in the Bay Area focuses on native people and landscapes, as well as building understanding and engaging communities.

The local first theme involves helping local indigenous groups reconnect with their ancestral territories and revitalize their cultural identities. The second theme provides funds to universities, museums, art centers, film festivals, gardens, and other cultural entities to explore connections between biological diversity and cultural expression. The couple believed that bicultural diversity was the interweave of nature, mankind, cultural pluralism, and ecological integrity. The Christensens dreamed of supporting individuals, institutions, and small communities as they embodied, performed, and explained their knowledge of and relationship to cultural art forms across generations. However, the foundation's overall grantmaking extends also to food sovereignty, civil rights, environmental landscapes, and climate change.

Main theme grants tend to be between $15,000 and $60,000, and local giving program grants tend to be between $5,000 and $10,000. Search the funder’s online database to review past grants. The following counties are typically eligible for Bay Area program grants: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, San Clara, Solano, and Sonoma. Other geographic interests are Africa, Central Asia, Turkey, Northern Mexico, and Northern Australia.

The Christensen Fund does not accept unsolicited grant applications for Bay Area grants. Direct general questions to the staff at info@christensenfund.org or 415-644-1630.

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