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Your Impact

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Please consider a generous, tax-deductible donation to Art Works Downtown  

We invite you to join the AWD Leadership Circle

In 1996, Art Works Downtown (AWD) was founded with the mission to provide an environment where visual arts thrive for the well-being of our community, a focus more important than ever to the vitality of the San Rafael community and greater Marin County. 


When vacant storefronts plagued San Rafael, AWD helped revitalize our downtown by placing artwork and the arts within accessible reach of anyone walking down the street. When local artists were priced out of studio space, AWD opened below-market studio space. When the housing market became challenging for our low income residents, AWD became an affordable housing solution. When Covid challenged our communities and connections, AWD provided virtual arts programming free to the public that inspired us through the darkest of times. 


More than a historic building, AWD is both a place and a mindset that fosters unity, belonging, collaboration and creativity by creating a thriving and healthy arts community for our community. AWD anchors a growing arts district in San Rafael, and has played a key role in the revitalization of Fourth Street. Moreover, the organization's uniquely comprehensive approach—providing not just studio space, galleries, and education, but a complete artistic environment—offers hope for other communities.


AWD has also been a major force since 2017 in the State finally awarding and funding a “CA Cultural Arts District" designation collectively to AWD and downtown San Rafael. There are only 14 of these in the state! This designation highlights thriving cultural diversity and unique artistic identities within local communities across California. We are extraordinarily proud that we have gotten this done for our community. 


As many urban nonprofits cope with dramatic rent increases, and towns struggle to promote a sense of community and cultural life in their downtown cores, the success of AWD offers an inspiration and a practical model to others. Co-founder Phyllis Thelen's vision has already expanded beyond an old opera house. It still has much more room to grow.


Art Works Downtown’s vision revolves around three primary initiatives:

  • The Art Works Downtown storefront galleries and monthly art walks open to the public.
  • Programming, exhibitions and workshops that connect working artists and our community.
  • The 1999 renovation and ongoing maintenance of 1325–1337 Fourth Street, formally the Gordon’s Opera House historic building built in 1878, that is home to our gallery and provides affordable housing for up to 20 residents and below-market workspace for 35 artists.

Few communities can boast of such a transformative story, but San Rafael can, thanks to Art Works Downtown and your support of our mission.


Art Works Downtown is seeking financial support that will enable it to rebuild its staff, expand both live and virtual programming, and ensure AWD’s art programs remain impactful to everyone in our visual arts-centered community, regardless of financial means. Please join us . Every donation is valued and appreciated!


Art Works Downtown is a 501(c)(3) public benefit organization and is community supported. Your donation is tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.


Art Works Downtown is registered as a 501(c)3 charitable organization. We rely on funding from the public, including individuals and businesses, as well as charitable foundations. Donations are tax-deductible.Your support allows us to awaken creative expression, joy and inspiration; teach techniques in many disciplines; foster new works and share our love and appreciation of the arts with the public. Your contribution is local, effective - and much appreciated. Simply put, art works downtown because of you.

For donations and sponsorships, please call Elisabeth Setten at 415.451.8119x702, donate online by clicking HERE, or mail your donation to:

Art Works Downtown
1337 Fourth Street
San Rafael, CA 94901

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