Loss of Big Funding Creates New Silicon Valley Arts, Culture Scene

In decades past, five big arts groups dominated the Silicon Valley culture scene, slurping up the majority of public support and private donations, while dozens of much smaller organizations fought over the table scraps. With annual budgets that in better times passed the $5 million mark, Ballet San Jose, San Jose Rep, San Jose Art Museum, Opera San Jose and the Symphony were big companies that were dominated for years on end by big artistic forces—Dennis Nahat, Timothy Near, Jim Reber, Leonid Grin or the late Irene Dalis and George Cleve.

The local arts scene looks quite different these days.

San Jose Symphony declared bankruptcy after its 2001 shutdown, ending a 64-year run. Silicon Valley Ballet called it quits earlier this year, while the Rep gave its final curtain call in 2014.

The 13-year-old Symphony Silicon Valley, a nimble successor to the original company, recently took a hit when Target ended its sponsorship of the annual Summer Pops series, and Opera San Jose dipped into its cash reserves from 2009 until this past season, when the organization’s new director put together a program that actually put the opera—barely—back into the black.

Still, even as these major groups have struggled, the performing and visual arts have proved resilient. The companies are younger and more diverse, both artistically and in terms of their leadership, virtualizing their operations and striving to do more with less. They are breaking out of the rigid confines of European tradition.

“There are a lot of things that aren’t right with the arts,” says Andrew Bales, executive director of Symphony Silicon Valley. But, he continues, that doesn’t mean the South Bay has given up on culture. In fact, according to Bales, “There really has been quite a resurgence of young folks in the arts—and it’s not even that they’re so young—it’s just a new generation of people.”

While there are fewer concentrations of power in Silicon Valley’s art scene today, there are many more important players—all of them working hard to bring relevant music, art and stage productions to the Bay Area’s most populous metropolis.

Check out profiles of local artist and artistic directors making a difference in Silicon Valley, as well as upcoming events for the rest of the year. Below is a list of Arts groups that receive funding from the city of San Jose.

FY 16-17 Operating Grant Awards Organization Award

Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose $40,306

Bay Area Glass Institute $64,558

Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose $230,233

Children's Musical Theater San Jose $190,716

Chinese Performing Artists of America $58,538

Cinequest Film Festival $137,900

City Lights Theater Company $79,478

Firebird Youth Chinese Orchestra $38,640

Kaisahan of San Jose Dance Company $31,325

MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana $93,920

Mexican Heritage Corporation $32,948

Opera San Jose $277,996

San Jose Chamber Orchestra $48,431

San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art $82,152

San Jose Jazz $154,249

San Jose Multicultural Artists Guild $23,818

San Jose Museum of Art $285,191

San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles $71,336

San Jose Stage Company $118,523

San Jose Symphonic Choir $22,740

San Jose Taiko $74,565

San Jose Youth Symphony $91,354

School of Arts & Culture @ MHP $141,606

Silicon Valley Shakespeare $26,834

Starting Arts $80,336

Steinway Society – The Bay Area $19,285

Symphony Silicon Valley $229,242

The Tabard Theatre $66,839

Vivace Youth Chorus $31,475

Zero1 $99,892

Operating Grants Total: $2,944,426

5 Comments

  1. Breaking out of the European tradition.
    Is that like trying capitalism and profits?

    • The author, Nick Veronin, is no fan of “the European tradition” undoubtedly because it is too Christian.

      https://sites.google.com/site/nveronin/essays

      Interstellar Salvation
      A discussion of religious motivations behind Western space exploration

      “Therefore, if one is to subscribe to these three pillars of Christendom, it naturally follows that humanity is charged with working the fields until they yield no more grain; cutting the forests until they no longer grow; hunting the foul [sic] of the air, beasts of the land, and fish of the waters of this planet until it is no longer possible to do so.”

      . . .

      “It would seem that “democracy and political freedoms” are paramount to the authors of the NASA study. At least these two ideals trump their interests in preserving the environment. But to assume that these ideals are merely political or national is shortsighted. The so-called “forced” equal allocation of resources is an “unpleasant” prospect, indeed, because it runs contrary to the singular Christian goal, to be achieved by way of a singular path, which has been dictated to humanity by a singular God.'”

      Ergo: Christianity is preventing us from practicing ‘”forced” equal allocation of resources’, and saving the environment.

      • Last time I looked, easter civilization is trying desperately to pass NASA, and Christianity in a space race that
        we have largely abandoned.

        A tribe in the middle east seems to be planning on passing weapons through and eliminate western Christianity, equal allocations, profits, and George Bush who is responsible for everything wrong in the world.

        What the heck, I’ll buy 2 tickets if they will do the “Music Man” again!

  2. Wow. This “scene” has been here for decades. The difference is now that arts and culture reporters have less to write about with the institutions, they are suddenly discovering this scene. Of course the fact that you would even try to photograph so-called leaders of the scene is STEP ONE of cooptation. There are influencers, but mainly it is a collaboration, except for your domini group who walk the fine line of self promoter/ art leader.

    Want to ruin the scene, write about it in the exact way this reporter did. There is no center, and despite the thousands spent downtown, can’t fake one or create one.

    This is a BS article with zero substance.