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.
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
Operating Grants Total: $2,944,426