Skip to content

A Laboratory for Relevance: Findings and Recommendations from the Arts Innovation Fund

Slover Linnett Strategies


To support the state’s premier cultural institutions as they advance their artistic vision and deliver innovative, aspirational programming.

Initiative Description

Between 2006 and 2011, The James Irvine Foundation invested more than $24 million in grants and technical assistance to support 28 projects at 19 of California’s leading arts institutions. These Arts Innovation Fund grants provided risk capital that organizations could use in a variety of ways to experiment with new work, reach people in new ways and enhance their internal operations — to prepare themselves for new constituent expectations in a changing cultural landscape. The initiative was co managed by (and included regular coaching from) New York-based consultants, EmcArts, to help the organizations pursue innovation and organizational change.


The concluding assessment for this initiative, conducted by Slover Linett Strategies, profiles several valuable lessons learned through the process of experimentation. This includes assessing whether and how grantees developed their institutional capacity for innovation and adaptation over time, allowing them to learn from their experiences and react to changing environments. Please take a look at an interactive infographic that highlights key findings and recommendations from the assessment and features video commentary from Irvine Arts Program Director Josephine Ramirez and others about AIF.


The objective for this assessment is to examine how grantees pursued innovation and established lasting organizational change. The assessment also seeks to contribute knowledge to the field about innovation in the arts. (The assessment was not developed to address the successes or failures of individual projects.)

Time frame

2006 – 2015 (conclusion of last grant period)

Participating grantees:

This assessment of the Arts Innovation Fund involved a literature review, document review focusing on reports from individual grantees as well as the technical assistance provider, interviews with lead project participants, and interviews with outside experts in the arts field.