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BY Ted Russell
Ted Russell
Ted Russell has been with Irvine since 2005 and helps oversee many of the Founda
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| Aug 05, 2014

Editor’s Note: Foundational Knowledge is an occasional series on News & Insights, providing three bullet points on a topic of interest to Irvine’s partners and grantees.

Our Arts program strives to promote engagement in the arts for all Californians. This means embracing and advancing the diverse ways that we experience the arts, as well as using it to strengthen our ability to thrive together. Working in this field, I often have the privilege of seeing arts organizations explore new and creative ways to engage people in their work, and I’ve noticed that some of the most forward-thinking organizations ask themselves some important questions, as they go about this.

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BY Josephine Ramirez
Josephine Ramirez
As Arts Program Director, Josephine is leading the implementation of a new grant
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| Jul 23, 2014 2

Many arts organizations are actively seeking ways to ensure their future relevance by better responding to a new California abundant with demographic change. In a state already known for its immense immigrant population and cultural diversity, we're experiencing an exponential growth of Latino and Asian populations. In 2010, these two groups comprised 51 percent of California’s population, and by 2020 this will increase to 55 percent. Our ability to adapt to the majority presence of these Californians is crucial to the vitality of the nonprofit arts field, yet these and other underserved communities have remained largely untouched by the enormous civic, social, and emotional benefits arts organizations provide.

We know that the more that arts professionals and volunteers meaningfully engage new and different audiences and participants in their work, the more resilient the organization becomes, and the more responsive and valuable it is to communities.

We also know that many organizations in our field succeed at this work brilliantly; and it was with this in mind that we commissioned a study to analyze and profile just how they do it. As a result we have new research to share about the qualities of arts organizations that are successfully engaging new and diverse participants.

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San Diego Symphony Shares Your Story, Your Song

BY Josephine Ramirez
Josephine Ramirez
As Arts Program Director, Josephine is leading the implementation of a new grant
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| Jul 17, 2014

Last week, the San Diego Symphony and 18 community groups collaborated on a multi-media performance as part of the Your Song, Your Story project.

The project, funded by the Irvine Foundation, is a two-year effort to engage residents of traditionally underserved San Diego neighborhoods to collaborate in the creation of a new orchestral work by contributing their individual stories and songs.

Below, we have assembled links to recent video clips of, and conversations about, the project's culminating concerts.

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Arts Grantees Talk about Engaging and Adapting

BY Josephine Ramirez
Josephine Ramirez
As Arts Program Director, Josephine is leading the implementation of a new grant
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| Apr 02, 2014

When we made our first grants in the New California Arts Fund in December, we knew we were asking these grantee-partners to learn with us how to successfully engage a broader and more diverse community of Californians---a process that calls for transforming and sustaining a new way of thinking and operating as arts organizations. We’ve already been inspired by the creative ideas and plans that the grantee-partners have been developing. We asked a few of them to talk about what they are excited about as they begin this journey. Watch this video to find out more; I hope you find them as inspiring as I do. The organizations in this video do not represent all of our NCAF grantee-partners. We plan to produce more videos through the course of this project to share the full range of voices and grantee-partners.


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The Next Generation of Arts Leaders

BY Jeanne Sakamoto
Jeanne Sakamoto
Jeanne Sakamoto has worked at Irvine since 2004 and helps oversee many of the Fo
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| Mar 26, 2014

Editor's Note: In 2010, the Hewlett and Irvine foundations partnered to support organizations that are cultivating the next generation of California arts leaders through professional development, networking, and mentorship. At the time, our CEO Jim Canales posted this letter describing our interest in supporting next generation leaders. As we share an independent assessment of that initiative, we thought we'd bring the assessment to life with reflections from two initiative participants.

Face of the Past – by Josh Russell

I know I am going to sound like an old man, but back in 2007, the idea of an emerging leader was barely a blip on the arts radar. After the idea of "next generation leadership" was introduced at a meeting at the Hewlett Foundation, I asked seven of my friends who worked in the arts to explore what we could do. I was motivated by a few different things:

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Picture This

BY Chris Henrikson
Chris Henrikson
Chris Henrikson is the Founder and Executive Director of Street Poets Inc.
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| Feb 12, 2014

After writing for a few minutes, a passerby records his contribution to a community poem along Central Avenue in South Los Angeles. Street Poets' Poetry in Motion van, supported by the Irvine Foundation's Exploring Engagement Fund, is a mobile poetry performance venue and recording studio designed to inspire creativity in unexpected places.

Photo Credit: Todd Bigelow

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Weaving Arts Engagement into our DNA

BY Josephine Ramirez
Josephine Ramirez
As Arts Program Director, Josephine is leading the implementation of a new grant
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| Jan 10, 2014

At Irvine, we talk a lot about the “new California.” It’s shorthand for the ongoing evolution of our state, one driven by demographic shifts, innovations in technology and other forces that drive home the adage, the only constant is change.

For the past two years, our arts program has focused on encouraging arts organizations to adapt to these changes. Through our Exploring Engagement Fund, we’ve made grants to nonprofits that are experimenting with arts engagement practices and reshaping the who, how and where of engaging new and diverse audiences and participants. This type of risk innovation is essential for the future and health of the field and we will continue to invest in it.

But piloting innovation has always been just one aspect of our strategy. From the beginning, we’ve known that, to truly adapt to a new California — which is to say, a state of continual change — requires a much deeper approach: one that shifts engagement from something we do to who we are.

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A Look Inside: How we Selected Grants for Arts’ Exploring Engagement Fund

BY Rick Noguchi
Rick Noguchi
Rick Noguchi has been with Irvine since 2008 and helps oversee many of the Found
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| Jul 15, 2013 1
One of the common criticisms that foundations hear from grantseekers is that we aren’t always clear about how we make decisions about grants. It can be frustrating for a grant-seeking organization to try to understand why they did not receive a grant, while similar organizations did. Foundation funding can be a critical source of income, particularly in the arts, so it’s understandable that arts nonprofits want better insight into our decision-making processes.

With that in mind, I would like to share some thoughts about grant decisions we made for one of our funds in the Arts Program here at Irvine, the Exploring Engagement Fund for Large Organizations (EEFLO). While each of our funds has unique considerations, these insights will give you a sense of how we make grant decisions regardless of the particular fund. (EEFLO is for a select group of arts organizations with annual operating budgets above $5 million.

The family of Exploring Engagement Funds falls within our Piloting priority. Piloting grants are designed to help organizations experiment with new ways of engaging Californians in the arts. Since experimentation can be daunting when financial resources are limited, EEFLO is designed to provide “risk capital” to allow arts organizations to take a risk, to experiment with project ideas that might engage more and different kinds of people than those who are typically drawn to their venue.

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Arts Grantees Explore Arts Engagement

BY Jeanne Sakamoto
Jeanne Sakamoto
Jeanne Sakamoto has worked at Irvine since 2004 and helps oversee many of the Fo
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| Jun 18, 2013
Last Friday, our board approved 27 new grants as part of our statewide Exploring Engagement Fund and another six grants as part of our more targeted Exploring Engagement Fund for Priority Regions (focused on the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley). We are now partnering with 86 grantees across the state to experiment with a wide variety of new arts engagement opportunities for Californians.

With this latest round of grants, organizations from Ukiah to Fresno to San Diego will be experimenting over the next two years with new models of arts engagement. While each project is distinct to the organization’s expertise, community and artistic discipline, we saw some recurring themes across this diverse set of grants.

For many organizations, Exploring Engagement Fund projects will help them connect to specific types of audiences and participants that may have had little contact with the organization or the art form it presents. The Anaheim Ballet, for example, will connect to new audiences in new ways through a series of unexpected, brief dance performances and participatory instruction sessions in nontraditional spaces during peak pedestrian traffic times, attempting to spark interest in and conversation about their art form.

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Continuing the Dialogue on Our Arts Strategy

BY Josephine Ramirez
Josephine Ramirez
As Arts Program Director, Josephine is leading the implementation of a new grant
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| Feb 26, 2013 1

A number of compelling conversations have been taking place over the last several weeks as a result of some very thoughtful blog posts about our Arts grantmaking strategy. (Nina Simon kicked it off with this post and then linked to related posts here.) What I find most exciting about all of this is the fact that a range of thoughtful leaders are engaging with ideas that are obviously important to Irvine, and their engagement will help make our grantmaking better. I’d like to take the opportunity to add to the dialogue as well as clarify a few points about our Arts strategy that were raised in the conversation so far.

Irvine has funded the arts since our inception because we care deeply about the importance of a healthy arts ecosystem that connects people and builds communities. We have an interest and an obligation in strengthening the arts system as a whole and we believe that the system will thrive if it focuses on engaging Californians who so far have largely been absent as audiences, visitors and donors. In becoming an adaptive, relevant and responsive field, we become more able to address the fact that the majority of Californians don’t engage with our system---not responding to this situation is clearly not the answer. Our response then, the core focus of our grantmaking that launches later this year, will be to support sustainable, core operational shifts as arts organizations expand engagement.

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