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Maximizing Philanthropic Impact: An Interview with Jim Canales

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Mar 12, 2013
What does the Irvine Foundation learn by regularly gathering feedback from grantees and other constituents? And how do we integrate those lessons into our work?

How does the Foundation think about “risk” in the context of its grantmaking strategies?

What is the proper role of government in social innovation?

In an interview last week on the Social Velocity blog, Irvine President and CEO Jim Canales discussed these and other questions with Social Velocity President Nell Edgington. The interview is one in a series of monthly discussions that Edgington conducts with leaders in the nonprofit sector. The interview is reprinted here:

Nell: One of the four grantmaking principles of the Irvine Foundation is “Invest in Organizations,” meaning that you are committed to providing grants to build nonprofit organizations (evaluation, operating support, infrastructure). This is a pretty radical idea for most foundations. What do you think holds other foundations back from this kind of investment and what will it take to get more of them to embrace the idea of organization building as opposed to just supporting direct programs?

Jim: This question of general operating support versus project support has been an ongoing debate in the nonprofit sector, and I’d like to suggest that we may be creating for ourselves a false dichotomy that may not be helpful. I’d suggest we focus on the end goal, not the means. Let’s start by asking the question: How can we maximize impact toward the shared goals of a foundation and its grantees? By asking the question in that way, we naturally have to explore whether we are investing sufficient resources, in the right ways, so that our grantee can have the impact we both seek.

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Irvine at 75: A Look Back, A Look Ahead

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Sep 10, 2012 1

By Jim Canales

In 1937, California’s population was approaching six million residents, the most iconic bridge in the world made its grand debut and a wealthy agricultural pioneer decided to give back much of his fortune to Californians by founding The James Irvine Foundation. As the Irvine Foundation marks its 75th anniversary this year, we naturally look back on our decades of grantmaking with a sense of pride in the accomplishments of our grantees who have worked so hard to help improve the lives of Californians. But we also use the occasion to look ahead and explore what is possible for this great state and how we might continue to play a role in expanding opportunity for the people of California.

We commemorate our 75th anniversary with a new timeline of significant moments in the history of the Irvine Foundation and our grantees, including photos that capture the role of Irvine grantees in responding to some of California’s biggest challenges. Take a look and let us know what you think — we hope you are inspired by the impact our grantees have had on a diverse range of issues over time, representing the freedom that James Irvine provided to the Foundation’s trustees to adapt and evolve the organization’s focus based on the changing needs in California.

What strikes me about the timeline is how it documents our evolution from a somewhat insular institution that funded causes close to home, to a strategic partner to our grantees, working with them to tackle the biggest issues of the day. This transition mirrors the century-long evolution of private philanthropy as the sector has recognized the opportunity and the responsibility to be bolder in our aspirations and to take a strategic approach to solving societal problems. For Irvine, the days are long gone when our Board of Directors would decide which organizations to fund based largely on personal connections or institutional profile.

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A Blueprint for Community Foundation Impact

BY Anne Vally
Anne Vally
Anne Vally was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2000 to 2013, last serving
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| Aug 06, 2012 1

One of the most fundamental values we hold at Irvine is to share what we’re learning. We want our colleagues — both nonprofits and other funders — to be able to apply the most promising ideas, approaches and strategies to their work – and to also avoid the ones that aren’t working. We will be putting this value into action at the upcoming Council on Foundations 2012 Fall Conference for Community Foundations.

We know that all community foundations want to grow assets and create positive changes in their communities, and Irvine will be hosting a special workshop to share strategies on how to make this happen. The workshop is built around the lessons and approaches developed over six years of intensive work to help a set of emerging community foundations in California become stronger leaders in their communities as part of our Community Foundations Initiative II. Between 2005 and 2011, this group grew their collective assets 12 percent annually (from $73 million to $131 million), compared to 7 percent for their peers nationwide. At the same time, they increased their grantmaking, awarding $4 million more in grants each and every year for projects in their communities.

We began sharing some of the lessons and tools from this work in 2007, with our Growing Smarter report, and over the years, we have hosted sold-out webinars and conference programs in partnership with the Council on Foundations to disseminate this knowledge to the field.

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Refining Our Support For Grantee Leadership

BY Kevin Rafter
Kevin Rafter
As Manager of Impact Assessment and Learning, Kevin oversees evaluation efforts
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| Jul 19, 2012 1

Building leadership is one of Irvine’s core values, and one of the ways we try to realize that value is through the Fund for Leadership Advancement. Started in 2005, the fund supports the development of individual leaders as a way to increase the impact of existing Irvine grantee organizations. Although the fund has been on hiatus while we conducted a program review, we are restarting this leadership development initiative and sharing what we’ve learned from our work in this area.

As we reached a critical mass of more than 50 FLA grants, we decided to take stock of FLA and consider updates that would insure that the program takes into account the economic and social circumstances our grantees currently face. In order to review the impact of FLA, we commissioned Harder+Company Community Research to conduct an external assessment of these grants and help us understand where and how FLA has had the greatest impact.

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The Power of Storytelling

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| May 04, 2012

Having just returned from the Council on Foundations’ annual conference this past week in Los Angeles, I was able to join with 1,300 of my colleagues in philanthropy to discuss the challenges and trends we are seeing. Not surprisingly, there was a great deal of conversation about the economy, growing income disparities, the effects of federal and state budget cuts, increasing polarization in our public discourse and other issues of shared concern. At the same time, there were some important, common themes that emerged and that serve as good reminders for how we can continue to enhance philanthropy’s contribution to addressing these various challenges.

One particularly resonant theme throughout the conference related to the power of storytelling. Good stories can shine a spotlight on our grantees’ successes and on the issues we care most about. Most importantly, stories might be the most effective way to encourage others to join us in forging solutions. The power of stories was evident in the conference’s opening video of rebuilding and recovery in Los Angeles, New Orleans and Detroit, showing the central role that philanthropy can play in rebuilding after crises and strengthening communities in the process.

I was reminded of the video’s images of communities working together when PolicyLink’s Angela Glover Blackwell spoke in Tuesday morning’s session on America’s vanishing middle class. Angela is a powerful voice in the national discourse on social justice and she dramatically advocated for society to see the widening gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” as the nation’s problem: “What happens to the people who the country has been too comfortable leaving behind will shape the future of our country,” she remarked, an important reminder of the need to include the disadvantaged in our ongoing narrative about the changing economy. (Please watch a video of Angela commenting on her panel, along with other Irvine grantees who were interviewed about the conference.)

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Irvine In The News: April 2012

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
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| May 01, 2012

In April 2012, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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Exploring Arts Engagement in our Priority Regions

BY Rick Noguchi
Rick Noguchi
Rick Noguchi has been with Irvine since 2008 and helps oversee many of the Found
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| Apr 26, 2012

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.

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Small Calif. Community Foundations Get Big Results

BY Anne Vally
Anne Vally
Anne Vally was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2000 to 2013, last serving
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| Apr 16, 2012 2

Over the past six years, I’ve had the privilege of working closely with a set of small, young community foundations in under-resourced parts of California as they aim to grow faster, smarter, and increase the positive impact they are having in their communities. With Irvine’s Community Foundations Initiative II (CFI II), I have learned one indelible lesson from these small but mighty organizations: take a deep breath and try it.

The “it” can be whatever you see that has the potential to change your organization and your community. Try new ways of engaging donors. Be bold and ask board members to give more. Bring people together to talk about thorny issues. Experiment with social media.

Through CFI II, we invested $12 million over six years in the growth and leadership of seven small California community foundations, with impressive results. Between 2005 and 2011, the group grew their collective assets 12 percent annually (going from $73 million to $131 million), compared to seven percent for their peers nationwide. At the same time, they increased their grantmaking, awarding $4 million more in grants each year for projects in their communities.

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Building Capacity Among Community Nonprofits

BY Anne Vally
Anne Vally
Anne Vally was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2000 to 2013, last serving
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| Apr 05, 2012

The Community Leadership Project is a $10 million investment, made collaboratively by Irvine and the Packard and Hewlett foundations, to support the effectiveness and impact of a set of small organizations that are deeply rooted in low-income communities and communities of color. The project began in 2009, and more than 100 community organizations in three regions of California – the San Francisco Bay Area, Central Coast and San Joaquin Valley –are involved in this effort to enhance important aspects of their organizations’ operations and leadership abilities.

We recently received a progress report from Social Policy Research Associates, the team that is evaluating the project’s results, and we are excited to share some of the accomplishments, challenges and surprises of the project.

The evaluation shows that CLP is successfully reaching organizations and individuals that are not typically on the philanthropy radar because of some combination of their small size, their finite capacity, or where they are located. Two years into the project, it is still too early to document specific outcomes, but the evaluators also share their viewpoint that CLP investments are making a difference for participating organizations in a host of ways. We are finding that:

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Partnering for a Stronger Valley

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Oct 26, 2011
Following are remarks made by Jim Canales, Irvine's President and CEO, at the Fresno Regional Foundation's 45th anniversary luncheon on Oct. 26, 2011. At the luncheon, the Fresno Regional Foundation announced plans to establish a new Fund for the San Joaquin Valley, using a $3 million grant from Irvine, to advance local giving and address critical issues in the region.

President John F. Kennedy had a plaque on his desk in the Oval Office. Inscribed on the front in brass were the words of an old fisherman’s prayer: Oh God thy sea is so great… and my boat is so small. That captures pretty well the thought of just about any foundation CEO. With seemingly infinite need and relatively finite resources, effective philanthropy can be a challenge. Moreover, when I look out at the problems swelling around California and then consider the scope of Irvine’s resources to do something about it… that sea looks quite vast, and the boat looks very small indeed.

I also find inspiration in the perspective of another “nautical” philosopher. In Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws”, when the character of Police Chief Martin Brody first sees the size and power of his foe… when he sees just how big that shark actually is... he kind of stumbles back a bit, but then recovers and calmly tells the scruffy captain: “You're gonna need a bigger boat.”

And that’s the spirit that we celebrate today. At the Fresno Regional Foundation, together we are building a bigger boat. Each of us plays a critical role as donor, supporter, advisor, champion or just a caring citizen who knows the value that a strong community delivers.

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A Conversation with John Jenks, Irvine’s Chief Investment Officer

BY Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum was a Communications Officer at The James Irvine Foundation from 200
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| Oct 01, 2010

Managing a $1.5 billion endowment is not for the faint of heart, particularly during one of the largest market upheavals in recent history. But then John Jenks, Irvine’s treasurer and chief investment officer since 2002, has some experience with outsized challenges.

From 1999 to 2002, John served as chief investment officer for the state of Alaska, guiding a $25 billion investment portfolio that included the state’s public employee and teacher pension funds as well as its general fund. And when he wasn’t managing state assets, he enjoyed braving the notoriously foul weather of the Inland Passage to catch 40-pound salmon.

Since joining Irvine, John has overseen important changes to the Foundation’s investment program. Under his direction, the Foundation has adopted a new, long-term strategic investment plan, significantly diversifying its portfolio and increasing investments in alternative assets.

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Audacious Ideas: Jim Canales

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Jul 20, 2010
From the Tactical Philanthropy blog, July 19, 2010

Bill and Melinda Gates along with Warren Buffett recently announced their commitment to devote the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. Perhaps more notably, they are encouraging other billionaires to pledge a similar commitment, and a new website, www.givingpledge.org, has been launched to encourage their peers to follow suit and to document these pledges.

This is certainly audacious. And it got me thinking about what similar “pledges” those of us privileged enough to work within organized philanthropy should be thinking about. Obviously, each of our foundations effectively makes a pledge by deciding where to focus our grants, whether on issues of education, health, economic development, the environment or the arts.

But, I’d suggest there are other commitments we should consider related to how we as foundations engage in our work in addition to what we do with our resources. The big-dollar pledges that foundations can make are certainly compelling, but the ways in which we engage with our grantees deserve as much attention as what we fund. Our ability to create positive social impact through our grantmaking is directly related to our capacity to be effective and thoughtful partners with the organizations we are privileged to support.

View full blog post.

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For Grantseekers in Arts, Regranting Programs Offer Range of Opportunities

BY Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2006 to 2013, last serving
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| Sep 22, 2009

As one of the state’s largest private funders of the arts, The James Irvine Foundation’s Arts program seeks “to promote a vibrant and inclusive artistic and cultural environment in California.” This broad goal, in effect, means that Irvine supports arts organizations of all sizes, in all disciplines and in all regions of the state.

But arts and culture in the nation’s most populous state is an enormous and diverse field, with more than 4,000 organizations statewide. Irvine’s five-person Arts program staff would be hard pressed to adequately cover such a broad territory and make well-informed decisions on thousands of grant proposals a year without a little help.

So the Foundation relies on a range of organizations — from community foundations to arts service organizations — to broaden its reach. By tapping the expertise and networks of these organizations in specific regions of the state or artistic disciplines, Irvine is able to keep the quality of grantmaking high, while reaching a larger number of small organizations and individual artists.

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Community Foundations Rise to Recession’s Many Challenges

BY Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2006 to 2013, last serving
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| Sep 22, 2009

For Terence Mulligan, the first signs of trouble began to appear two years ago — in what now seems like a familiar story.

Housing foreclosures in Napa Valley, where he serves as president of the local community foundation, inexplicably started to spike. In 2006, just over 20 homes in the entire county were taken over by banks or lenders when their owners couldn’t make payments. But by the end of 2007, while economists were arguing about whether the country had slipped into recession, that number had jumped to more than 200.

Over the next year, as the housing bubble burst and the unemployment rate grew, the large population of low-income agricultural and service workers in Napa bore the brunt of the impact. Applications for food stamps were up. Mental health and domestic violence counselors were suddenly in greater demand. And the housing market — once considered a pillar of local stability — continued to crumble. By the end of last year, there were nearly 800 foreclosures in Napa County.

“As the recession hit last year, it seemed like, ‘Holy cow, the world is coming off its axis,’” recalls Mulligan, whose organization, the Napa Valley Community Foundation, scrambled to find ways to meet the growing community needs. The community foundation has been a major supporter of the county’s largest safety-net organizations, such as food banks, homeless shelters and family centers.

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Irvine’s Creative Connections Fund Supports a Diversity of Arts Projects

BY Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2006 to 2013, last serving
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| Jun 22, 2009
Pasadena Museum of California Art officials were thrilled when two employees who work at NASA's nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratory proposed curating a show featuring artistic representations of scientific data.

But as the cost of the exhibition, Data + Art: Science and Art in the Age of Information, became clear — there would be huge images projected onto walls and a live computerized display of actual national flight traffic, among other things — museum Executive Director Jenkins Shannon worried that she could not afford to do the show justice.

Sonia Marie De Leon de Vega, Executive Director of the Santa Cecilia Orchestra of Los Angeles

Then the museum received a hoped-for $30,000 grant from The James Irvine Foundation's new Creative Connections Fund.

"Without the support, we probably would have had to downsize or postpone the exhibition," Shannon said. Instead, the show turned out to be one of the Pasadena museum's most popular ever, drawing an estimated 6,500 people over an 11-week period.

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Pioneering S.F. Program Puts Bank Accounts in Reach of Poor

BY Amy Dominguez-Arms
Amy Dominguez-Arms
As Director of the California Democracy program, Amy leads strategies aimed at i
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| Jan 22, 2009
"Cash back fast!” their front windows promise. “Loans up to $255!” “C’mon in and get happy!"

Such pitches are an ordinary part of life in San Francisco’s Mission District, home to the city’s highest concentration of check-cashing outlets and pay day lenders. A single corner of Mission Street boasts two side-by-side outlets, nestled amid the laundromats and carnicerias that serve neighborhood residents, more than half of whom don’t hold traditional bank accounts.

"Bank on San Francisco is a pragmatic solution to a widespread problem, and a great example of the power of public-private partnerships."

– Amy Dominguez-Arms, director of the Irvine
Foundation’s California Perspectives program

Every year, these outlets siphon off millions of dollars from a community that can ill afford to lose it. They charge up to $40 just to cash a paycheck and up to 450 percent in interest rates on short term loans. For Mission District residents, many of them working two to three jobs just to get by, that can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year – for a service that most consumers get for free.

"In our city, the price you pay for using check cashers is so high, it really impacts the household. When you open a bank account, you benefit immediately, from day one," explains José Cisneros, San Francisco’s City Treasurer. Yet more than one in five San Francisco residents are "unbanked," including half of the city's African-American and Latino population.

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Early College Programs with a Career Focus

BY Daniel Silverman
Daniel Silverman
A native Californian, Daniel Silverman leads the Foundation’s communications wor
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| Mar 22, 2008
In California, the most advanced high school students have long had the opportunity to get a head start on college. Through "dual enrollment" programs, they can take college courses during their last two years of high school, earning both high school and college credit.

Increasingly, however, educators are discovering that dual enrollment programs are a benefit for average and low-achieving students as well. For some students, it's the power of high expectations to build confidence and responsibility, while for others it's a matter of easing what can be a challenging transition between high school and college.

Youth

Dual-Enrollment Partnerships

Following are the eight partnerships that will receive support through Irvine's dual-enrollment initiative. For each partnership, the lead institution is listed first:

  • Arthur A. Benjamin Health Professions High School/Sacramento City College (Sacramento)
  • City College of San Francisco/San Francisco Unified School District (San Francisco)
  • Long Beach Unified School District/Long Beach City College/California State University Long Beach (Long Beach)
  • Los Angeles City College/Hollywood Senior High/Downtown Business Magnets High/Miguel Contreras Learning Complex (Los Angeles)
  • North Orange County ROP/Anaheim Union High School District/Cypress College/Fullerton College (Anaheim)
  • Santa Barbara City College/Santa Barbara High School District/Carpinteria High School District/South Coast ROP (Santa Barbara)
  • Shasta Union High School District/Anderson Union High School District/Shasta College/Shasta-Trinity ROP (Shasta)
  • Tulare Joint Union High School District/College of the Sequoias (Tulare)

 

Last fall, a study by Columbia University's Community College Research Center found that students in dual enrollment programs were more likely to earn a high school diploma, enter college and stay until at least the second semester. They also had higher postsecondary grade point averages than college students who had not been enrolled in the dual enrollment programs.

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New Study Finds Best Approaches For Engaging Infrequent Voters

BY Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum was a Communications Officer at The James Irvine Foundation from 200
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| Sep 02, 2007
All politics are local – it's an old adage but it's also the key to mobilizing the state's large number of infrequent voters, according to an assessment of Irvine's California Votes Initiative, a multi-year effort to encourage higher voter participation, particularly in communities with traditionally low voting rates.

As part of the initiative, Irvine funded a study, conducted during the June 2006, November 2006 and March 2007 elections, to find out which strategies work best to engage infrequent voters. Irvine recently released the preliminary findings. (View the full report here.)

What works best, the study found, is personal contact, particularly by someone from the voter's community or neighborhood. Creating a relationship with the prospective voter is critical, and in most cases, that rapport is stronger when it comes from face-to-face contact, although it also can be created through personal phone calls.

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Space, Time, and Community: Supporting Artists through Residencies

BY Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2006 to 2013, last serving
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| Sep 22, 2005
Investing in Creativity: A Study for the Support Structure for U.S. Artists, a groundbreaking study done by the Urban Institute in 2003 with support from Irvine and an unprecedented group of 39 arts funders nationwide, found that the majority of artists produce without the supports most professionals enjoy. Most artists hold multiple jobs, earn less money than others with comparable skills and education levels, and lack basic benefits such as health care. By gauging the current state of support for artists — what they need, what they're (often not) getting, and the cost to society — the study found the problems confronting most artists have escalated in the wake of the federal funding declines of the mid-1990s. The report also identified an interconnected framework of needs that artists face: training and professional development, communities and networks, material supports, information, validation, and demand and markets for their work.

Artist Midori Harima in residence at the Kala Art Institute. Photo: Kim Harrington.

The time and space to do one's work is one of the most important, most expensive, and most elusive necessities for most artists.

With the more recent reductions of state and most public funding for the arts in California, the situation is especially acute for the state's artists. That's why Irvine — the largest, statewide private funder of the arts in California — has committed to supporting individual artists through several strategies as part of its Arts program. One way to address a key need identified by the recent study — the need for time and space to work — is through artist residency programs.

"The time and space to do one's work is one of the most important, most expensive, and, unfortunately, most elusive necessities for most artists," says Marcy Hinand Cady, Irvine's Program Director for Arts. "Providing space, material support, and a supportive network to individual artists is an important means of nurturing individual talent while simultaneously creating the sort of dialogue of ideas and creative expression that is essential to a healthy cultural community in California."

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Space and Time for the Artist: Irvine Fellowships in Dance

BY Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2006 to 2013, last serving
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| Jun 21, 2004

In the summer of 2001, choreographer Amelia Rudolph developed "Crossing," a mountaineering dance piece set in the Sierra Nevada. Nearly three years later, she was performing a new multimedia version of the work at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. What took her from mountain range to urban performance, from nature trek to national tour, was a process of artistic development made possible by a unique program called the Irvine Fellowships in Dance.

"The program looks at artists as individuals, not as service providers," says Dance USA's Julie Carson, director of the project. "Usually, it's, 'What dance product can you make, how fast and for how many people?' The fellowship program says: 'What do you need to be a better dance maker?' It speaks directly to the growth of the art and the artist."

Funded by the Irvine Foundation and administered by Dance USA, the fellowship program is designed to support California dance artists in researching and developing a broad range of voices, genres, cultural traditions and community connections across the state. Since 1998, 24 "dance makers" from California have been selected as fellows, based on both the quality of their work and their role as leaders in the dance field.

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