Sonoma County arts agency launches equity and culture fellowship

The program is for local artists whose work advances the well-being of communities of color and other marginalized groups.|

Sonoma County’s art agency has launched a fellowship grant program to further the careers of six early and mid-career artists and art organizers whose work advances the well-being of local communities of color and other traditionally marginalized groups.

Creative Sonoma, a division of Sonoma County’s Economic Development Board that promotes local artists, is organizing the fellowship, which will provide awardees $5,000 in grant funding and an additional $1,250 training stipend.

The program, the first of its kind for Creative Sonoma, also aims to support artists who work with cultural and nontraditional art mediums, which also tend to be underrepresented in arts funding, said Samantha Kimpel, a program officer with Creative Sonoma.

“It’s a need that needs to be filled,” she added. “How does someone other than a white woman define the arts and cultural experience? We just need more voices.”

The division has partnered with Petaluma-based Kimzin Creative, a local arts and equity consulting group, to run the fellowship program.

The project is being funded by both Creative Sonoma and the Manitou Fund, a Minnesota nonprofit with ties to Sonoma County, according to Kimpel.

Called the Arts and Cultural Equity Fellowship Program, the project emerged out of a realization that Creative Sonoma’s applicant pool and program offerings have historically lacked diversity, Kimpel said.

Applications are open to Sonoma County artists or those who work in art-related fields who identify as Black, Indigenous or as a person of color. Those who have an understanding or a desire to learn more about the lived experiences of people in those communities will also be considered.

Nikko Kimzin, a former Broadway performer and the owner of Kimzin Creative, said the investment in those artists allows them to contribute to the future of Sonoma County.

“When we look at creating racial equity and racial justice in Sonoma County, we have to allocate resources, time and funding so we can support that,” Nikko Kimzin said. “Artists are the creators of culture, so we have to bring in this new generation of artists that are creating a more inclusive culture.”

In an effort to diversify its applicant pool, Creative Sonoma has made its application process more accessible.

For the first time, applicants who primarily speak a language other than English will have the option of submitting their application responses in video form in their native language, Kimpel said.

Creative Sonoma will then select a panelist that speaks that language to review the application, Kimpel said.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old and should also be able to show what impact the grant money would make in their professional careers or within local communities of color.

Their proposal can be related to the creation of a specific art project or a professional development project, such as building a website for a business or learning how to hold fundraising events for an arts nonprofit.

Fellows will also be paired with mentors and will work closely with Kimzin to meet their professional development goals, Kimpel said.

Kimzin said the fellows’ needs will be at the center of that process.

“What we’re really trying to do, as we select the fellows, is really to allow them into the creation process so its something that will serve them best,” Kimzin said.

Submission for the fellowship program opened earlier this month and run through March 1. The fellows could be selected by late March, Kimpel said.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or On Twitter @nashellytweets.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.