Hewlett Foundation grant program to benefit West County youth

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Hewlett Foundation grant program to benefit West County youth
Dancer Ny'Aja Roberson performs with Destiny Arts Center, one of the recipients of the 34 Adaptation Grants. (Photo by Sophie Becker and contributed by the Hewlett Foundation.)

West Contra Costa youth are among the beneficiaries of a recent $17 million grant program launched by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to help nonprofit art organizations navigate the challenges of operating in the high-cost Bay Area.

Over 30 nonprofit organizations received one-time Adaptation Grants ranging from $300,000 to $975,000, the Foundation announced last month. Among them were the RYSE Center in Richmond, which engages over 500 youth in about 60 projects and 40 events annually; the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond, which provides in-school and after-school education programs for 4,500 elementary students, as well as rigorous conservatory-level training and wraparound services for 140 middle and high school students; and Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy, which provides music and dance classes in traditional and popular Mexican genres to 240 children and young people in the city of San Pablo.

The Adaptation Grant program aims to support art organizations that are facing challenges due to the high financial cost to operate in the Bay Area, inequalities in access to art and artmaking, and the impacts of the pandemic, according to the Foundation. Organizations receiving grants have concluded an initial planning period with ideas for how they will navigate economic and social challenges of the coming years. Beyond the arts, planning ideas encompass everything from mental health care for community youth to employment benefits for working artists, the Foundation said.

“The grants are directed not at immediate operational costs, but to help organizations plan for, test, and enact structural and financial evolutions that will allow them to best fulfill their missions in the years to come,” according to the Hewlett Foundation.

 “To thrive, and not just survive, arts groups need room to experiment and adapt to changing economic, technological, and cultural conditions,” said Emiko Ono, director of Hewlett’s Performing Arts program. “These grants provide runway for that innovation, and have the potential to carve a new path forward for the arts sector so that the Bay Area can benefit from a vibrant and equitable cultural landscape.”