The Kenneth Rainin Foundation’s Open Spaces Program — Deadline: August 4, 2017

by admin on May 11, 2017

Program Description & Guidelines

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation’s Open Spaces Program offers support to nonprofit organizations to partner with artists to create temporary, place-based public art projects in San Francisco and Oakland that:

  • Are exceptional, visionary projects with a high impact
  • Include an artist-initiated process of community engagement
  • Exhibit cultural experimentation and innovation
  • Leverage civic and neighborhood resources and cultural assets

The deadline for Letters of Inquiry (LOI) for this program is August 4, 2017. A document outlining the LOI requirements is available for download. Qualified applicants will be invited to submit proposals for the second phase of this process by October 27, 2017. We encourage you to sign up for our arts newsletter to receive the latest news and important announcements about the Open Spaces Program.

Open Spaces Program Overview

Letters of Inquiry: Accepted Monday, June 26 – Friday, August 4, 2017 by 5:00 PM (PST)
A small group of finalists will be selected and each receive a $5,000 honorarium to further develop their proposals.
Full Proposals Deadline: Friday, October 27, 2017 by 5:00 PM (PST)
Location of Projects: Oakland and San Francisco
Grant Range: $50,000—$200,000 per project
Pre-Application Workshops: There will be two pre-application workshops open to the public taking place in Oakland and San Francisco on June 13th and June 21st respectively. Please see here for more details and how to register.


As with the Foundation’s other Arts grant programs, the Open Spaces Program is intended to strengthen the Bay Area as a center for experimentation in the arts and aims to:

  • Support mutually beneficial and authentic partnerships between organizations and artists to create works in which their collaboration is central to the project’s development;
  • Encourage new, experimental projects and collaborations across various disciplines, diverse media and technology;
  • Provide support that enables artists to produce new, bold and innovative projects that activate a neighborhood and engage community members; and
  • Support projects which demonstrate a relationship between content and context.
“I can’t say enough about how much I value and appreciate the ‘roll up your sleeves’ and ‘get down with it’ practice that is the culture of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation.”– Darryl Smith, Co-Director, Luggage Store Gallery, Rainin Foundation Grantee


Lead applicants must be Bay Area nonprofit organizations that are proposing projects in collaboration with a specific artist(s). Participating artists may be based outside of the San Francisco Bay Area provided that a local organization plays a lead role. Please contact Arts Program Staff in advance of submitting an application if:

  • Applying with a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor*
  • If you are a return applicant to the Open Spaces Program and are applying for the same project

*In the case that a project is applying with a fiscal sponsor, the fiscally sponsored project and the lead artist(s) may not be the same entity. Please contact Arts Program Staff should you need further clarification.

Applicant organizations must demonstrate that they have the capacity to fulfill the following roles and responsibilities:

  • Oversee project management, which includes obtaining required City approvals and permits, facilitating community engagement activities, promoting the project through social media and other channels, assisting with ongoing maintenance of the project, documenting the project and developing a metric for project evaluation
  • Make payments to artist and team members and maintain accurate financial records for the project
  • Hold general liability insurance to indemnify the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and property owner

Please note: Projects from artists or organizations that have not completed projects and final reports for previously awarded Open Space grants will not be considered.

Qualified Projects

Public art is broadly defined. The project may embody many multidisciplinary approaches, including but not limited to:

  • Visual Arts, fine and applied
  • Light, sound and/or technology based artworks
  • Video and film projections
  • Sculpture
  • Socially engaged art practice
  • Conceptual works
  • Performance-based projects*

*Please note: We recommend reviewing our NEW Program guidelines prior to submitting an LOI for the Open Spaces Program, especially if your project is primarily performance-based. Contact Arts Program Staff with any questions about the program that may be the best fit for your project.

Site Selection

Project sites must be in San Francisco or Oakland. Preference will be given to proposals for projects taking place outdoors in high-density urban areas accessible by public transportation. Potential project sites may include any location that can be accessed by the public. The project must significantly activate the project site and have a sustained presence of one month or longer to allow for substantial engagement with place and community.

Application Process

Phase One – Letter of Inquiry (LOI)
Deadline: August 4, 2017

The Rainin Foundation invites submissions through our online LOI process. A document outlining the requirements is available for download.

LOI Applicants will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • The timeliness and compelling nature of the project;
  • Project’s relevance to the communities it seeks to serve;
  • Rigor and impact of past work;
  • Innovation and originality of the artist’s work;
  • Evidence of a thoughtful approach to community engagement;
  • Documented track record of successful project outcomes demonstrating the applicant’s ability to execute a project of this nature; and
  • Capacity to fulfill all of the requirements of the grant as reflected above.

Organizations and collaborating artists should prepare the LOI together and in the case that a project uses a fiscal sponsor that sponsor should also review the LOI.

Please note: While we do our best to include feedback on declined LOIs when we feel it will be beneficial to the applicant, due to the high number of submissions we regret that we can only guarantee feedback at the full proposal stage.

Phase Two – Full Proposals
Deadline: October 27, 2017

Based on the criteria above, we will select applicants to advance to Phase Two, where they will be awarded a $5,000 honorarium to develop a detailed proposal. A document outlining the full proposal requirements is available for download. Finalists will be required to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Rainin Foundation that describes the deliverables associated with their proposal. A panel will review the finalists’ proposals and recommend projects for funding. Grants may range between $50,000 to $200,000.

How to Apply

  • Documents outlining the LOI and Full Proposal requirements are available for download. Please note that all applications are received only through the Foundation’s online system.
  • Applicants selected from the pool of submitted LOIs will be invited to submit a Full Proposal by Friday, October 27, 2017. Applicants will be awarded $5,000 to further develop their proposals.
  • This grant is project-based only. The grant amount is non-negotiable.
  • Please review our FAQ page before starting the application process.

Open Spaces: Workshop & Speaker Series

The Foundation will provide a training and education component as part of the Open Spaces Program. Events include:

  • Two pre-application workshops open to the public taking place in Oakland and San Francisco on June 13th and June 21st respectively. Workshops will feature an overview of Rainin Foundation objectives, the application process, and our commitment to community engagement. Please see here for more details and how to register.
  • Technical workshop for finalists with speakers, including city representatives, fabricators, design professionals, artists, project managers or facilitators, documentarians, and more (date and location TBD).
  • Exploring Public Art Practices, a symposium featuring artists working in the public realm (date and location TBD).

* Please note that training and education events for the Open Spaces Program are subject to change.

Awards Schedule

For relevant deadlines and program dates, please refer to the Awards Calendar.

Please direct your questions to Arts Program Staff.