8 California Organizations Harnessing the Power of the Arts

Art isn't just a way to escape from reality or get immersed in entertainment. It's also a way for people to tell their stories, to get exposed to new ideas, and an outlet for those who struggle to express themselves. These organizations offer Californians opportunities to create and share artistic works, building communities and connecting people to those around them. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

8 Arts Organizations in California Making an Impact

Name Location Focus
TeAda Productions Santa Monica Creates original plays drawn from the life experiences of immigrants and refugees, offering workshops and touring performances
Bob Mizer Foundation El Cerrito Preserves the archives of photographer Bob Mizer and promotes daring and controversial photography
Studios on the Park Paso Robles Offers creative and educational experiences to enhance the public's understanding and appreciation of the visual arts
Southern Exposure San Francisco Provides grants for projects and exhibitions and offers educational programs to facilitate meaningful participation among youth
Sebastopol Center for the Arts Sebastopol Platform for local, regional, national, and international makers, musicians, filmmakers, and writers, including galleries, classes, and the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival
Fresh Meat Productions San Francisco Founded by choreographer Sean Dorsey, invests in the creative expression of the transgender and gender-nonconforming communities
Creativity Explored San Francisco Studio space, instruction, exhibitions, and learning opportunities to give artists with developmental disabilities the means to create and share their work with the community
Litquake San Francisco Annual festival and cultural programming to expand and support the book scene in the Bay Area

The Artists of Creativity Explored

Facts about Live Theater in the U.S.

"Boys In Trouble" from Sean Dorsey Dance and Fresh Meat Productions

Top 10 States Ranked by Number of Nonprofit Theaters Per Capita

As of 2005, according to the National Endowment for the Arts

State Number of theaters per 100,000 people Population (in millions)
1. Vermont 2.2 0.6
2. Alaska 1.7 0.7
3. New York 1.3 19.3
4. Maine 1.2 1.3
5. Montana 1.2 0.9
6. Rhode Island 1.1 1.1
7. Oregon 1.1 3.6
8. Connecticut 1.0 3.5
9. New Hampshire 1.0 1.3
10. Minnesota 1.0 5.1

In Depth

Up and down California's 800 miles of coastline, a bustling population of artists explore their visions and inspire others through acts of creativity, whether they work in visual media or undertake literary pursuits. While widely appreciated, this work isn't always lucrative. To insure that such cultural workers have the means to support themselves, a wide array of nonprofits provide funding, support, and opportunities for exposure. This list, presented in no particular order, brings together eight such groups in the Golden State.

Starting things off at #1, Teada is a nomadic theater group of color rooted in the stories of immigrants and refugees. For over 20 years, the group has collaborated with community-based organizations across the country, creating original plays drawn from the life experiences of migrants. For creators, they offer workshops like Refugee State, the methodology of which is designed to offer healing to refugee participants and spread awareness about the issues affecting them among the general public.

In addition to offering fellowships for actors, artists, and activists interested in social justice, Teada is a theater company in its own right. Their touring stage productions originate in the group's workshops or through extensive interviews. These shows delve into aspects of the refugee experience that infrequently appear on the stage. Get involved by attending a Teada performance, workshop, lecture, or class.

In addition to offering fellowships for actors, artists, and activists interested in social justice, Teada is a theater company in its own right.

#2 is The Bob Mizer Foundation, dedicated to the promotion and preservation of forward-looking and controversial photography. Committed to the idea that the most disputed works of art are the most important to the progress of society, the mission of the educational nonprofit is rooted in the need to preserve the archives of photographer Bob Mizer, which include over two million works, as well as equipment, props, sets, and remaining personal effects. It also holds art by some of Mizer's contemporaries.

The eponymous photographer is best known for his groundbreaking magazine Physique Pictorial, a publication that skewed American ideals of masculinity, ranging from dramatic lit black and white photographs of musclemen to colorfully extreme close-ups of male genitalia. In addition to maintaining this work in its permanent collections, the foundation puts on exhibitions in its gallery space, presents a film series, and hosts other types of public programming. Learn more by reading the organization's blog.

At #3, it's Studios on the Park, a non-profit art center in the heart of historic downtown Paso Robles. The group is dedicated to providing creative and educational experiences to enhance the public's understanding and appreciation of the visual arts. In pursuit of that goal, it invites artists to participate in residencies for which they open their working spaces to visitors. Guests are encouraged to more fully interact with and observe the creative process as they watch the artists execute their craft.

The group is dedicated to providing creative and educational experiences to enhance the public's understanding and appreciation of the visual arts.

Besides the artists-in-residence, Studios is home to multiple galleries. These spaces showcase artwork of regional and national significance, with a special emphasis on new work by California makers, particularly those from the Central Coast area. A diverse lineup of lectures, classes, workshops, activities, and exhibition-related special events provides educational opportunities for all ages. See what Studios on the Park has to offer by visiting an artist during open hours or perusing one of the galleries.

For #4, we've got Southern Exposure, a nonprofit committed to supporting visual artists. Through extensive and innovative programming, the group strives to experiment, collaborate, and educate while providing an extraordinary resource center and forum for Bay Area and national artists and youth in its Mission District space and off-site, in the public realm. Founded in 1974, it has evolved in response to the changing needs of the local creative community and those of viewers.

An Artists in Education program brings together diverse youth, artists, schools, and organizations to facilitate meaningful participation in the visual arts, sparking a dialogue on contemporary aesthetic practice and sociopolitical issues. Through a line called Alternative Exposure, the organization provides grants for projects, exhibitions, publications, and venues. The group also offers commissions to support the development of ambitious new creative efforts. Support this work by attending the annual Monster Drawing Rally fundraiser.

An Artists in Education program brings together diverse youth, artists, schools, and organizations to facilitate meaningful participation in the visual arts, sparking a dialogue on contemporary aesthetic practice and sociopolitical issues.

In the #5 spot, it's Sebastopol Center for the Arts, a community arts organization committed to cultivating creativity and inspiration. For over 30 years, it has been a destination for artists and enthusiasts, with award-winning programs that provide ways to experience and explore culture. Located in Sonoma County, the center serves as a platform for local, regional, national, and international makers, musicians, filmmakers, and writers.

SCA's programs include Art at the Source, an annual two-weekend event that showcases local artists, emerging and established. The Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival celebrates excellence in craft, character, and storytelling in non-fiction cinema. The group also offers a wide range of arts education classes. It exhibits makers who work in different media in a set of award-winning galleries. Get involved by purchasing an item from the institution's store, which sells jewelry, ceramics, wearable art, books, and other trinkets.

#6: Fresh Meat Productions invests in the creative expression and cultural leadership of transgender and gender-nonconforming communities. Founded in 2002 by choreographer Sean Dorsey, the San Francisco group believes that the arts are a powerful tool for social justice and cultural transformation. Its guiding principles are relevance, access, excellence, and solidarity. At the start a relatively small festival, it has transformed into a year-round arts organization that nurtures the burgeoning transgender creative community.

At the start a relatively small festival, it has transformed into a year-round arts organization that nurtures the burgeoning transgender creative community.

One line of the operation funds the creation and performance of new work. These efforts include a commissioning program open to queer artists working in different media, as well as the resident Sean Dorsey Dance company. An annual three-day festival spotlights work by trans and G.N.C. makers; a commitment maintained year round through an events series. Classes, residencies, and lectures provide different forms of community engagement. Take part in this enterprise by volunteering or donating money.

At #7, it's Creativity Explored, which gives artists with developmental disabilities the means to create and share their work with the community, celebrating the power of art to change lives. It supports people with such disabilities in their quest to become working artists, and to promoting their work as an emerging and increasingly important contribution to the contemporary creative milieu. The group designs these practices to create connections, enhance personal identity, and change attitudes.

The organization provides studio space and instruction to those working in printmaking, painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, and fabric art. Participants also receive access to opportunities to visit Bay Area museums, galleries, and other makers' workplaces. Exhibitions and events take place at different institutions throughout San Francisco. The group's blog keeps members and supporters up-to-date on all C.E. activities. Back these efforts by purchasing an artwork or licensing one for use in your own personal or business project.

Participants also receive access to opportunities to visit Bay Area museums, galleries, and other makers' workplaces.

Finishing things up at #8, it's Litquake, sparking critical conversations, and inspiring writers and readers to celebrate the written word with diverse literary programming, interactive workshops, and a ten-day festival. Founded in 1999 as a one-off festival, it has expanded its programming to include all elements of the Bay Area book scene. Whether it's poets reciting in a cathedral, authors discussing science versus religion in a library, or novelists reading in a beekeeping supply store, the org's quirky events bring words to life.

The group's beloved annual literary festival is still the main event, in recent years hosting more than 800 authors in 100-plus venues. There is also ancillary programming dedicated explicitly to child and teen readers. So-called Master Class Mixers function as year-round adult writing workshops that pair wine receptions with three-hour classes taught by prominent literary figures. There is also a subset of events and educational opportunities designed for elders in order to combat the epidemic of senior loneliness. Show your support by volunteering.