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Our New Arts Strategy's First Grants

BY Josephine Ramirez
Josephine Ramirez
As Arts Program Director, Josephine is leading the implementation of a new grant
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| Jun 22, 2012
Nearly a year to the date that we announced a new Arts strategy that recognizes how the arts should be a vibrant force for strengthening communities, we are pleased to announce our first set of grants under this new direction. The Irvine board recently approved 20 grants as part of our Exploring Engagement Fund, which was designed to offer risk capital to encourage and fuel arts engagement.

Our new Arts strategy seeks to promote engagement in the arts for all Californians and we will support arts nonprofits that want to explore this engagement concept with us. Engaging more Californians in the arts will ultimately help organizations expand their reach and support-base and thereby contribute to their viability and relevance. Moreover, the more deeply we demonstrate the value of the arts by making them accessible and integral to community life, the more essential the arts will be in the lives of all Californians.

Here are just a few examples of the projects being supported under our Exploring Engagement Fund:

  • The Museum of Art and History at the McPherson Center will launch as many as 30 pop-up museums in the Santa Cruz region for underserved audiences to actively engage as collectors, curators and creators of mini-museums dedicated to issues and ideas that matter to them.
  • The San Diego Asian Film Foundation will experiment with "drive-out" cinema: using a van equipped with a portable screen, projector and PA system to create film venues in parking lots, parks and public squares.
  • And in Los Angeles, Diavolo Dance Theater, an internationally renowned dance company known for touring will expand its work in its hometown by establishing a new series of free, ongoing dance and movement workshops in the neighborhoods near its studio.

The group of 20 inventive arts nonprofits funded in this first round of the Exploring Engagement Fund are linked together in that they: represent a new or expanded engagement for the organization toward underserved audiences and participants; investigate active engagement as a way of involving audiences in the artistic process; and/or that explore nontraditional kinds of venues for arts presentations and activities.

These concepts follow one or more of the three "who, how, where" engagement models we created as part of our new strategy:

  • WHO engages: Expanding opportunities for all Californians to experience the arts in their lives.
  • HOW they engage: Providing ways for Californians to experience the arts as active participants that can contribute to the vitality of their communities.
  • WHERE engagement happens: Reaching beyond the walls of traditional arts spaces so the arts live where communities live.
We're encouraging arts organizations to take bold risks like these because we're eager to learn along with our grantees about how some of these risks will lead to breakthroughs and new thinking for the field. We're committed to supporting promising ideas that may become catalysts for change, both for the individual organization and potentially change that builds sustainable models to transform the field as a whole.

As a result of the commitment our strategy represents, many California arts nonprofits will be supported in the years to come with this fund and its two companion funds:

  • The Exploring Engagement Fund for Priority Regions, which is supporting nonprofit arts organizations based in the San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire; and the
  • The Exploring Engagement Fund for Large Organizations, an invitation-only fund that supports California-based nonprofit arts organizations with operating budgets greater than $5 million.

We received applications from a wide assortment of organizations, representing different sizes, disciplines and geographic settings. What might be a common project type for one group could be an innovative experiment for another. Yet, each in their distinct way contributes to promoting arts engagement for Californians by trying something new or taking previous experimentation to the next level. We are thrilled to begin our journey under the new strategy with these and other inventive, bold and curious arts organizations that you will read about later this year!

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As Arts Program Director, Josephine is leading the implementation of a new grantmaking strategy to “promote engagement in the arts for all Californians.” View full bio »

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