Working in partnership with United States Artists, the Rainin Foundation’s first four $100,000 annual grants went to choreographer Amara Tabor-Smith; filmmaker Rodrigo Reyes; Margo Hall, artistic director of the Lorraine Hansberry Theater of San Francisco; and the People’s Kitchen Collective.
Since 2009, the Foundation has awarded more than $44 million in funding to support small-to-midsize Bay Area arts organizations that are pushing the boundaries of creative expression.
The 2021 Fellows were nominated by Bay Area artists and cultural leaders and selected through a two-part review process with the help of national reviewers and a panel of four local jurors. The reviewers were Anna Glass, Arthur Avilés, Claudia Alick, Diya Vij, Ilyse McKimmie, Lizania Denisse Cruz, Meiyin Wang, Meropi Peponides, Miriam Bale, Nehad Khader, Pramila Vasudevan, and Prerana Reddy.
The jurors were Laura Elaine Ellis, director of the African and African American Performing Arts Coalition; Lisa Evans, performance artist and cultural worker; Stephen Gong, executive director of the Center for Asian American Media; and Weston Teruya, artist at Related Tactics.
“The inaugural fellows anchor the Bay Area’s art scene, a community that has been adversely affected by gentrification, displacement, and COVID,” said the announcement. “Yet through their work and presence, these artists are ensuring that culture doesn’t just survive but thrives.”
Rainin Foundation Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Rainin said, “It’s important for us to understand the lived experiences of people who are disproportionately impacted by the economic insecurity and health disparities of this crisis. Prioritizing and centering their needs will help us rebuild systems to create vibrant, resilient and equitable communities for the long term.”
Besides the unrestricted grants of $100,000, the inaugural fellows also receive supplemental professional support, designed to amplify the effect of the cash, both for them and the community. Rainin Foundation Chief Program Officer Shelley Trott says, “The Fellowship not only provides major financial support, it also allows the artists to spend that money on whatever benefits their lives or careers — housing, health care, or future projects. By doing this, we support anchor artists and honor the vital role they play within the region’s incredibly rich arts landscape.”
Oakland-based Mexican director Rodrigo Reyes makes films deeply grounded in his identity as an immigrant artist, crafting a poetic gaze from the margins of both cultures. His latest film 499 won Best Cinematography at Tribeca, as well as the Special Jury Award at Hot Docs and the Golden Frog at Camerimage. His work has screened on national public broadcast on America ReFramed and has been commissioned by Netflix.
Reyes told SF Classical Voice “This award will allow my work to blossom and grow by allowing me to embrace my process without the distraction of the daily grind. I am grateful for the leadership of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, [which] is pointing the way forward by giving artists the resources to make their own decisions about the future of their craft.”
Margo Hall is the first female artistic director of the Lorraine Hansberry Theater of San Francisco. She is an award-winning actor, director, playwright, and educator, who has been a leading performer and director in the Bay Area for over 30 years. In 2018 she was awarded the Jerry Friedman Lifetime Achievement Award by the San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle.
Hall is a founding member of Campo Santo, a multicultural theater company in San Francisco, and is a professor at UC Berkeley and Chabot College in the Theater Department. She says of the award: “The Rainin Fellowship will allow me time to breathe and focus on my long-term goals of possibly producing new work.”
Amara Tabor-Smith’s project, House/Full of BlackWomen, is a five-year-long, site-specific performance project engaging the displacement and sex trafficking of Black women in Oakland. She is the artistic director of Deep Waters Dance Theater, and 2020 recipient of the Hewlett 50 grant with East Side Arts Alliance; a 2019 Dance/USA Fellow, 2018 United States Artist Fellow and a 2018 recipient of KQED’s “Bay Brilliant” award. Tabor-Smith is currently an artist in residence at Stanford University.
She told SFCV:
“The Rainin Fellowship is allowing me to dig deeper into the community responsive aspect of my work which includes spending more time, research and resources to forge pathways towards housing stability/home-fullness for myself and for my community in Oakland — a community I love and am accountable to. A community that has supported, and been the inspiration for the performance work that I create.”
Channeling the legacy of the Black Panthers’ free breakfast program, People’s Kitchen Collective, the project uses gathering for a meal as a means to create, heal, and organize communities around police violence and gentrification.
Jocelyn Jackson of the Collective, told SFCV: “People’s Kitchen Collective is beyond grateful for the amount of active support from Kenneth Rainin Foundation over several years including this inaugural Rainin Fellowship. PKC believes in the social art practice of radical hospitality and we are so appreciative that the Kenneth Rainin Foundation also believes in the work we do with and for the people at the intersection of art, food, and social justice. This fellowship will go toward our project ‘Earthseed’ that is also supported by the 2021 Creative Capital Award.
“It is so important to PKC to turn to our ancestors for the wisdom to continue to create our own survival. Octavia Butler’s Parables series and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense are specific sources for our Earthseed project because they both embody the work of building new worlds where the liberation of Black and brown folks is centered.
“Our project will continue the tradition of collective care by developing a national and multidisciplinary cohort of activists who come together in Northern California to co-create a dynamic resource kit that then seeds change and radical survival at community meals around the country. This work that PKC does is at the intersection of food, art, and social justice for a reason. We must live our freedom out loud and in public so that our collective liberation moves from possibility to certainty.”