It is well known that the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley have experienced rapid population growth followed by a severe economic downturn that left both regions struggling. The Irvine Foundation has prioritized these two regions for support because they are so drastically under-resourced by philanthropic dollars and have so much need. Within our Arts program, we created our new Exploring Engagement Fund for Priority Regions as part of our commitment to these two regions, and I was pleased to see the enthusiasm for the fund during two recent meetings I attended in Fresno and Redlands to answer questions about the fund.
The Exploring Engagement Fund for Priority Regions will enable us to work with local arts nonprofits to increase the engagement of Californians in these areas of the state. It is similar to our statewide Exploring Engagement Fund but is only open to nonprofits located within the ten counties of the San Joaquin Valley and the two counties of the Inland Empire. These nonprofits will fill out a slightly different application than the statewide fund and will also receive additional technical assistance in filling out the applications, if so desired.
For the information session in Fresno, we partnered with the Fresno Regional Foundation. Senior Program Officer Sandra Flores and Foundation Support Specialist Sarah Soberal helped coordinate the session and helped spread the word about the sessions to local arts groups. Irvine's Senior Program Officer Jeanne Sakamoto joined me in Fresno on April 12 for the San Joaquin Valley information session that was attended by more than 40 arts leaders in the region.
For our Inland Empire session on April 17, we partnered with The Community Foundation Serving Riverside and San Bernardino. Assistant to the President Kris Kirkpatrick helped to coordinate the event details and President and Chief Executive Officer Daniel Foster was instrumental in getting the word out about the session through his weekly column in the Riverside Press-Enterprise. I was joined at this session by Irvine's Arts Program Director Josephine Ramirez, and we were pleased to host more than 50 arts leaders at the San Bernardino County Museum.
Throughout both information sessions, we fielded many questions about our new strategy, the types of arts engagement opportunities we are looking to fund and, of course, eligibility questions. We were also asked about how the fund would support unique partnerships between arts organizations and non-arts organizations, an unusual arrangement for grant support that we believe will lead to additional opportunities for arts engagement for people living in these regions. We explained that in regions with less arts infrastructure, like these two priority areas, arts engagement may already be happening in nontraditional venues and with non-arts organizations. Many social service agencies have an arts program that is core to their work and organizational missions, so we wanted to make sure that funding is available to them as well, in partnership with arts organizations. Additionally, there are a number of arts organizations that do not fit the application criteria because their annual operating budgets are under the minimum amount of $100,000 established by the fund and so the partnership opportunity may allow them to meet the eligibility requirements and lead to interesting arts engagement collaborations.
It was encouraging to see that arts leaders at both information sessions were energized by this grant opportunity that will infuse their respective regions with new support for the arts. Likewise, we are eager to learn about and support the arts engagement work taking place in the San Joaquin Valley and the Inland Empire. The deadline for applications is June 1.
Read more about the Exploring Engagement Fund for Priority Regions.