Foundation gives $6.3M to S.F. arts

The Wallace Foundation, one of the country's major donors to the arts, has come to San Francisco with a bang. At a City Hall press conference today, Wallace Foundation President Christine DeVita announced grants totaling $6.3 million to 11 local organizations, and an additional $1.47 million for an innovative area-wide partnership to build audiences and support arts presenters.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom greeted the news as something badly needed at a time of “increasing interest in the arts and decreasing federal and state support… to valuable institutions enhancing the quality of life.”

The new government-community-private partnership was announced with the participation of San Francisco Foundation President Sandra Hernandez, San Francisco Grants for the Arts Director Kary Schulman, and leaders of major arts organizations.

The joint four-year audience-building campaign in San Francisco and eight other Bay Area counties aims “to create a learning network… and foster arts engagement.”

San Francisco Foundation is partnering with Grants for the Arts, the local public agency that manages hotel tax funding. Participants include Theatre Bay Area, the City of San José Office of Cultural Affairs, East Bay Community Foundation and the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau. Together, they plan to develop a combined mailing list, expand Websites, increase Internet discount ticket sales, and commission cultural participation projects.

The Wallace Foundation Excellence Awards, ranging from $275,000 to $750,000, are shared by Center for Asian American Media, Contemporary Jewish Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, LINES Ballet, ODC/San Francisco, San Francisco Girls Chorus, SF JAZZ, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Opera, World Arts West, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

This is the first time Wallace's Excellence Awards are given to San Francisco organizations; Philadelphia is the other city receiving such grants. Last year, similar large grants went to arts organizations in Boston and Chicago.

“The Excellence Awards honor organizations that have made a commitment to engage more people deeply in the arts part of their DNA,” said DeVita at the Tuesday press conference. “We created these awards to draw national attention to the importance of engaging more people in the arts, to encourage organizations to sustain and expand the impact of their work with local constituencies, and to generate an assortment of useful, broadly-applicable lessons and practices that will be helpful to the field.”

The foundation, which has assisted educational and cultural programs for a half century, originated with DeWitt and Lila Acheson Wallace, founders of The Reader’s Digest Association.

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