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.
For others, Exploring Engagement Fund grants will enable them to take engagement practices they already use and extend them in ways that help them connect with new communities that have not yet benefitted from their work. For example, the Bay Area Video Coalition will offer digital storytelling workshops offsite at partner locations for the first time, deepening its collaborations with social service agencies while extending its reach in underserved populations.
And for some organizations, Exploring Engagement Fund projects will allow them to experiment with new arts engagement practices that deepen and expand their existing relationships with groups that often don’t benefit from the work of arts nonprofits. For example, the Robey Theatre Company, an organization focused on the African American experience, plans to launch a new community-building theater workshop and production drawing on the experiences of and participation by local Latino and African American families.
We look forward to learning together with our grantees about effective ways that arts organizations can experiment with who they are engaging, how they are engaging them, and where engagement takes place. As many of these projects involve some risk-taking by the organizations to try new ways of engaging diverse Californians in the arts, we don’t necessarily expect that all will be successful. We hope to learn from all these experiments and share these findings with the arts field.