Emiko Ono, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

TITLE: Program Officer, Performing Arts

FUNDING AREAS: Performing arts

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Not your average ivory-tower philanthropist, Ono has placed upon herself the same onus she puts on grantees: to practice active engagement in community art making.

PROFILE: Emiko Ono made her mark in the arts grantmaking and administration world at a young age, and now she brings passion and vitality to her role as a program officer in the Performing Arts Program at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. In a March 2012 interview, Ono said, "I am pushing myself to explore what it means to put active participation at the center of my own arts experiences. This means you might find me in a hula class, pop-up chorus, or interactive theater experience."

Ono, like the other program officers at Hewlett, has a strong bent towards education. She got her bachelor's degree in anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to Bank Street College of Education in New York City for her master's degree in education. She soon after took a position as manager of education initiatives and partnerships at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. At the museum, she launched their first arts education program, partnering with 20 organizations and gaining a crash course in the regional non-profit arts sector. This "Education and Arts Roundtable" was an effort to bring midsize arts organizations, museum educators, and scientists together to take joint ownership of "museum interactions and partnerships." On the heels of that project, she coauthored a book documenting the Roundtable and its methods titled, Interplay: Inspiring Wonder, Discovery, and Learning Through Interdisciplinary Museum Community Partnerships.

Ono cites her job at the Natural History Museum as the experience that opened her eyes to the challenges facing arts organizations and inspired her to work for change. She went on to work at Arts Council Long Beach as the director of grant and professional development programs, and later joined the Los Angeles County Arts Commission (LACAC). She maintained a wide web of contacts in the California arts community, where she earned her reputation as a kind and personable resource of ideas and connections.

At LACAC, she managed a portfolio of 350 grantees from a full spectrum of arts disciplines. Ono was responsible for administering more than $4 million in grants annually. She led the Arts Internship Program, which provides internships to undergraduate students at non-profit arts organizations with the goal of developing future arts leaders. She also led the Cultivate/Create Initiative, providing organizations with funds to commission new work from area artists, and the Arts Board Leadership Initiative, a training program for fledgling grantees.

At Hewlett, Ono manages a diverse portfolio as well. It is this diversity that excites and invigorates her. "The variety of high-quality art available in the Bay Area is remarkable," says Ono. "It's the rare place where you can listen to a gamelan orchestra, see modern dance, and participate in a sing-along of sea chanteys all in the same week." In her role as grantmaker, she views herself as an advocate, enthusiast, adviser, and challenger of the Bay Area's manifold arts communities, and she seeks to strategically distribute funding throughout. Given her personal and professional history, it seems as though Ono sees the value in all arts genres and in organizations big, small, and microscopic. Hewlett's penchant for issuing multiyear grants suits her perfectly; she wants every organization to have to opportunity to flourish over the long term.

Ono has plans "to help lead Bay Area performing arts into the new century." The Hewlett website offers a unique tool to visualize and explore its grant database. Using it, you get a strong picture of Hewlett's priority to sustain and strengthen the existing arts ecosystem by supporting arts education, continuity and engagement, and infrastructure with approximately 100 grants totalling approximately $15 million each year. The foundation rarely provides grants of more than $1 million, instead targeting midsize organizations with grants of several hundred thousand.

Ono spends her time throughout the year visiting arts events that "will provide [her] with the widest range of what is happening in the Bay Area." Come grantmaking time, she is poised to offer support to those sites that promise community engagement and education, as well as those thoughtfully engaged in arts leadership development, a growing area of interest for her.