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Hewlett Foundation Announces 10 Nonprofits Receiving $1.5 Million in Grants

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Hewlett awardee Marc Bamuthi Joseph dances with a soccer ball in a hoodie in an excerpt from 'pen-LO-tah' at the Black Choreographer's Festival. (Photo: Greg Bridges)

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced the latest awardees of its Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions on Wednesday, granting a total of $1.5 million to 10 Bay Area nonprofits supporting new theater, musical theater and spoken word productions.

The awardees, selected by a panel of outside experts and Hewlett staff, are local organizations large and small, including Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Center for Asian American Media, Destiny Arts Center and California Shakespeare Theater. Each organization will receive $150,000 for a specific project.

The five-year, $8 million initiative, launched last year to mark the Menlo Park private foundation’s fiftieth anniversary, aims to “sustain artistic expression and encourage public engagement with the arts,” according to a press release. Each year focuses on a different performing arts discipline (last year’s was music), with the nonprofit awardees sponsoring major new works by individual artists. So far, most of the grantees have shown strong social-justice components.

Sponsored works this year include The Black Whole, a multidisciplinary theater production and public ritual that creator Marc Bamuthi Joseph intends as an elegy for Oakland youth killed before the age of 30; The Limp, a hip hop-driven narrative performance piece addressing toxic masculinity by Blindspotting cocreator Rafael Casal; and J-town, Chinatown, Our Town, a multidisciplinary theater work inspired by playwright Brenda Wong Aoki and her family’s generations-spanning history in San Francisco.

“This project is a transmission of experiential wisdom and love—for family, for homeland drawn from decades of living and working in the city,” Aoki said in a statement. “At its core, this is a love letter to San Francisco.”

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Visit Hewlett’s website for a full list of the awardees.

One of the nation’s wealthiest grant-makers, the Hewlett Foundation has awarded more than $350 million to arts organizations since 1967. Other recent examples of its giving locally include grants for North Bay arts organizations affected by wildfires. (The Foundation also supplies funding for KQED Arts.)

Hewlett touts the arts commissions program as the largest of its kind in the United States.

“The San Francisco Bay Area has long been home to one of the nation’s great art scenes, and many of the world’s most innovative artists,” Hewlett Foundation president Larry Kramer said in a statement. “We hope this program plays a role in sustaining and continuing that rich tradition.”

Future years of the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions will focus on dance, traditional arts and film, according to the press release.

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