Two non-profits team up to offer $100,000 grants to artists in the San Francisco Bay Area

Annual stipends will benefit creators struggling with an astronomical cost of living in the region, which is facing an artistic exodus

A scene from the House/Full of Blackwomen episode Now You See Me (Fly), a performance project from 2016 that was choreographed by Amara Tabor-Smith, a recipient of a $100,000 stipend from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and United States Artists Robbie Sweeny

The Oakland, California-based Kenneth Rainin Foundation has partnered with United States Artists to launch the Rainin Fellowship, which will annually award grants of $100,000 each to four artists in the San Francisco Bay Area. Each artist will be selected on the basis of making an impact on the community.

The inaugural winners are Margo Hall, who is the first female artistic director of San Francisco’s Lorraine Hansberry Theater; the choreographer and performer Amara Tabor-Smith; the artist and activist group People’s Kitchen Collective; and the filmmaker Rodrigo Reyes.

In addition to the $100,000 purse, each artist will receive professional support that may include such services as financial planning, communications and marketing help or legal assistance, for example.

“The Rainin Fellowship aims to have a significant impact on the life of Bay Area artists who are facing unique challenges, including the highest cost of living in the country,” says Shelley Trott, chief program officer at the non-profit Kenneth Rainin Foundation, which supports the arts, childhood literacy and disease research in the Bay Area.

“The fellowship was designed to truly support artists by allowing them to use the $100,000 award in any way that benefits their lives and careers—housing, health care or future projects,” she says. “This is an investment in the anchor artists and our incredibly diverse arts landscape.”

The partnership between the locally based Kenneth Rainin Foundation and non-profit United States Artists, which is centred in Chicago and dispenses stipends to artists and other cultural practitioners nationally, may represent a new model of teamwork in artistic philanthropy.

It also comes as San Francisco confronts an exodus of artists as a result of the city’s prohibitively high cost of living. Recent setbacks to the artistic community include the planned closure of Oakland’s Mills College, with its influential Center for Contemporary Music, and the narrowly avoided shutdown of the San Francisco Art Institute, with its pivotal role in nurturing movements from Color Field painting to the Mission School. The financial pressures have been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcement comes days after the city of San Francisco signalled that it would allot $1,000 a month for six months to 130 local artists under a new pilot programme.