About

Our mission is to help expand artists’ access to resources by supporting organizations working to make creative expression, experimentation, public programming and discourse accessible to all people, artists and non-artists alike. By supporting creative orgs & arts programming in diverse communities across the country, we hope to expand artistic practices of all kinds, deepen community engagement, creative collaboration, and improve the quality of life of artists and all people.

The Foundation’s grantmaking practices focus on funding nonprofit arts organizations of all types and sizes. We believe that equality, diversity, democracy, and environmental wellbeing are fundamental components of a healthy society and these tenants are what drive our work. We believe that self-expression and creative collaboration not only empower people to better understand themselves, but that art is a powerful tool for representing diverse voices, experiences, cultures, and opinions.

The Foundation is interested in organizations and programming that similarly prioritize diversity, inclusiveness, community, and freedom of speech. We’re especially interested in organizations that utilize art and programming to engage diverse, marginalized, at-risk, or underserved communities of all kinds. We strive to help secure the longevity of creative organizations, their staff, creative practices, programming, and community resources, particularly in areas where gentrification and/or Covid-19 has forced the displacement of artists, nonprofit art spaces, and other marginalized peoples.

Since its founding in 2014, the Foundation has supported more than seventy nonprofit arts organizations and institutions in various capacities, nationwide. Our grant recipients are not geographically restricted, though the majority do operate in California. All of our recipients have tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status as nonprofit organizations as defined by the Internal Revenue Service.

The Wilhelm Family Foundation is a continuation of the philanthropic spirit of our founder, Donald C. Wilhelm, who believed that art has the power to transform humanity through individual self-expression.

Board of Directors

Cascade Wilhelm,
Director & Co-founder
Matthew O’Donnell,
Secretary
Leland Evans,
Treasurer

Donald C. Wilhelm, Founder

Donald Wilhelm founded the Wilhelm Family Foundation shortly before his death in 2013. A lifelong lover of art and literature, Donald’s pursuit of self-knowledge and his belief in creative expression are at the core of the Foundation’s philosophy and operations.

Don was born in the Sunset District of San Francisco in 1918 to German immigrants. He served in the US Navy for four years during World War II, and went on to receive his B.S. from Harvard University and later, an M.B.A. from Stanford University. Eventually returning to San Francisco, Don began working in the automobile industry, moonlighting as a car salesman before opening his own dealership, Continental Car Company, on Van Ness Avenue’s “auto-row” in 1954. It was during the boom of the American automobile industry, and in spite of the pervasive anti-German sentiment of the times, that Don found success as one of the first dealers in California to import foreign cars such as BMW, Porsche, Jaguar and Volvo.

In the decades to follow, Don’s business and his passion for culture, found him traveling to countries the world over, frequently accompanied by his wife of 40 years, artist Betsy Roeth. Driven by a deep desire to give back, Don’s endeavors were progressive, diverse and far-reaching. In the late-60’s, with the help of his close friend, Michael Kaye, Don co-founded an alternative education high school in Woodside, CA, called Pacific High School. Some years later, the two partnered on another enterprise, Costa Rica Expeditions, one of the first eco-tourism outfits in Costa Rica.