Ranked Nonprofits: Local Arts & Culture 2012

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"Art is fundamental, unique to each of us…Even in difficult economic times - especially in difficult economic times - the arts are essential." –Maria Shriver
"Art is fundamental, unique to each of us…Even in difficult economic times - especially in difficult economic times - the arts are essential." –Maria Shriver

The Cause: In the 1960s, there was an explosion of nonprofit arts organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1961, before the birth of the national Endowment for the Arts, San Francisco passed a law to require part of the hotel tax to go to funding the arts. Over time, each Bay Area region evolved to have different kinds of arts and culture groups across all disciplines, styles, and ethnicities: jazz, classical, folk, performing arts, choreography, visual arts, literary arts, poetry, film, video, and so on. In fact, at one point, the San Francisco Bay Area was second only to New York in terms of having the largest number of dance companies. Therefore, with decades of support and development, the vibrancy and variety among the arts in the Bay Area has led to a unique texture in the cultural fabric of this region. Today there are hundreds and hundreds of arts and culture nonprofits, of all sizes and varieties, all across the Bay Area.

The Scope: Experts working in the San Francisco Bay Area's Arts and Culture sector were asked to recommend up to four nonprofit organizations making a significant impact in the sector. They were also asked to recommend up to two promising startup organizations in the sector. Experts were encouraged to consider a variety of nonprofits touching on many arts disciplines and target audiences. Areas of focus could include developing or producing new work, supporting artists directly, exhibition and performance, increasing arts and culture access, and preserving and promoting traditional culture. Organizations ranged across various types of nonprofits including traditional arts and culture organizations, funders, educators, and policy and advocacy organizations.


87 Local Arts & Culture experts recommended the following 21 outstanding nonprofits.
Meet the experts and read more about this research.


Top Nonprofit Mission
1 Medal-small-2012 Intersection for the Arts
Intersection for the Arts cultivates inclusivity, builds community, and inspires social change through art.
2 Medal-small-2012 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
YBCA is an integrated site of creative endeavor; a unique fusion of art, innovation and ideas in a social environment. It serves as a curated platform for the dynamic convergence of artists, inventors, producers, thinkers, and community to sustain multiple levels of participation, propel short and long term social change, and insure that live arts and living artists are vital to society.
3 Medal-small-2012 Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Berkeley Repertory Theatre seeks to set a national standard for ambitious programming, engagement with its audiences and leadership within the community in which it resides. We endeavor to create a diverse body of work that expresses a rigorous, embracing aesthetic and reflects the highest artistic standards, and seek to maintain an environment in which talented artists can do their best work. We strive to engage our audiences in an ongoing dialogue of ideas, and encourage lifelong learning as a core community value. Through productions, outreach and education, Berkeley Rep aspires to use theatre as a means to challenge, thrill and galvanize what is best in the human spirit.
4 Medal-small-2012 Oakland Museum of California
The mission of the Oakland Museum of California is to connect communities to the cultural and environmental heritage of California. Through collections, exhibitions, education programs, and public dialogue, we inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to think creatively and critically about the natural, artistic and social forces that characterize our state and influence its relationship to the world.
5 Medal-small-2012 Theatre Bay Area
Theatre Bay Area's mission is to unite, strengthen, promote and advance the theatre community in the San Francisco Bay Area, working on behalf of our conviction that the performing arts are an essential public good, critical to a healthy and truly democratic society, and invaluable as a source of personal enrichment and growth.
6 Medal-small-2012 Youth Speaks
Youth Speaks creates safe spaces to empower the next generation of leaders, self-defined artists, and visionary activists through written and oral illiteracies. We challenge youth to find, develop, publicly present, and apply their voices as creators of social change.

Ultimately, we hope to shift the perceptions of youth by combating illiteracy, alienation, and silence, creating a global movement of brave new voices bringing the noise from the margins to the core.

7 Medal-small-2012 San Francisco Symphony
The San Francisco Symphony sets the highest possible standard for excellence in musical performance at home and around the world; Enriches, serves, and shapes cultural life throughout the spectrum of Bay Area communities; Maintains financial stability and gains public recognition as a means of ensuring its ability to fulfill its mission.
8 Medal-small-2012 Southern Exposure
Southern Exposure (SoEx) is an artist-centered non-profit organization that is committed to supporting visual artists. Through our extensive and innovative programming, SoEx strives to experiment, collaborate and further educate while providing an extraordinary resource center and forum for Bay Area and national artists and youth in our Mission District space and off-site, in the public realm.
9 Medal-small-2012 CounterPulse
CounterPULSE provides space and resources for emerging artists and cultural innovators, serving as an incubator for the creation of socially relevant, community-based art and culture. CounterPULSE acts as a catalyst for art and action; creating a forum for the open exchange of art and ideas, catalyzing transformation in our communities and our society. We work towards a world that celebrates diversity of race, class, cultural heritage, artistic expression, ability, gender identity & sexual orientation. We strive to create an environment that is physically and economically accessible to everyone.
10 Medal-small-2012 SFJAZZ
SFJAZZ is a recognized international leader in jazz creation, presentation, and education. SFJAZZ explores the full spectrum of jazz, from the music's origins in the African American community to its diverse present-day expressions around the world. As a non-profit organization, SFJAZZ works to develop the audience for jazz in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. SFJAZZ celebrates jazz as a living art form, built on a constantly evolving tradition.
11 Medal-small-2012 Axis Dance Company (AXIS)
AXIS Dance Company's mission is:

  • to create and perform contemporary dance that is developed through the collaboration of dancers with and without disabilities
  • to teach dance and educate about collaboration and disability through community education and outreach programs
  • to promote and support physically integrated dance locally, nationally and internationally
12 Medal-small-2012 San Jose Museum of Art
The San Jose Museum of Art reflects the diverse cultures and innovative spirit of Silicon Valley. Through its exhibitions, programs, scholarship, and collections, SJMA connects the present and the past, the art of the West Coast and the world. The Museum fosters awareness of artists’ broad contributions to society and engages audiences with the art of our time and the vitality of the creative process.
13 Medal-small-2012 Dancers' Group
Dancers' Group promotes the visibility and viability of dance. We serve San Francisco Bay Area artists, the dance community and audiences through programs and services that are as collaborative and innovative as the creative process itself. In response to the needs of its constituents, Dancers' Group has evolved to fulfill a dual function as a service organization and as a presenter of performance opportunities that maximize the visibility of dance in the Bay Area.
14 Medal-small-2012 Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana de San Jose
MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana is an inclusive contemporary arts space grounded in the Chicano/Latino experience that incubates new visual, literary and performance art in order to engage people in civic dialogue and community transformation.
15 Medal-small-2012 TheatreWorks
Education in and through the Arts can inspire an individual, electrify a school, and invigorate a community. Through our programs at TheatreWorks we strive to nurture the roots of creativity and encourage the instinct for art that lives in every corner of our community. Inquire! Discover! Master! Jump in and join our exceptional teaching artists for a journey sure to awaken the artist within.
16 Medal-small-2012 Z Space Studio (Z Space)
Z Space is a hub for artists and audiences to revel in the creation, development and production of outstanding new work. Under the leadership of Executive Artistic Director Lisa Steindler, Z Space commissions, develops, and produces works from a variety of disciplines, including theater, dance, music, performance art, and new media. Since 2009 we have managed and operated a 13,000 sq/ft, 229-seat performing arts venue and gallery in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, where artists of all stripes rehearse, perform and exhibit their latest creations.
17 Medal-small-2012 Queer Cultural Center
Founded in 1993, Queer Cultural Center is a multiracial community-building organization that fosters the artistic, economic and cultural development of San Francisco's LGBT community. We implement our mission by operating programs that commission and present Queer artists, that promote the development of culturally diverse Queer arts organizations and that document significant Queer arts events taking place in San Francisco. By presenting, exhibiting, screening and documenting queer artists' work, C contributes to the development of a multicultural perspective on the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender experience.
18 Medal-small-2012 Zero1 - The Art and Technology Network
ZERO1 is where art meets technology to shape the future.
19 Medal-small-2012 Community Music Center (CMC)
The mission of Community Music Center is to make high-quality music accessible to all people, regardless of their financial status.
20 Medal-small-2012 San Francisco Performances
The mission of San Francisco Performances is to present internationally acclaimed and emerging artists and to build new and diversified audiences for the arts through education activities and innovative artists-in-residence programs.
21 Medal-small-2012 Root Division
Root Division's mission is to improve appreciation and access to the visual arts by connecting personal inspiration and community participation. We provide subsidized studio space to working artists in exchange for their service in creating shared learning opportunities for the community. Artists develop creatively and professionally by teaching art to underserved youth, leading adult education classes, and producing exhibitions that showcase local emerging artwork. By combining multiple opportunities for creative exchange, Root Division cultivates an artistic ecosystem that enriches life throughout the Bay Area.


Check out all nonprofit reviews for Local Arts & Culture (Bay Area).

Have questions about these results? Review our methodology.





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Through independent research, Philanthropedia has leveraged the wisdom of 3121 experts to provide reviews on 715 top nonprofits across 44 causes.