The Creative Work Fund Awards $670,000 in Grants for Collaborative Art Projects

Amy Lawrence - Posted on 01 September 2009

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Creative Work Fund Logo2009 Awards Feature Media Artists and Traditional Artists

The Creative Work Fund has announced 17 new grant awards to Bay Area artists and nonprofit organizations for collaborations leading to new art works.  This year the Fund invited applications from media artists and traditional artists, and the forms of the finished works range from films, theater environments, Web sites, and sound installations to new work for Rom brass band, a revival of Russian harvest celebrations, and traditional Japanese woodworking.

“The Creative Work Fund’s 2009 grants point to extraordinary qualities of the Bay Area’s cultural scene," said Creative Work Fund's executive director, Frances Phillips.  "Artists are working at the cutting edge of new technology while also immersing themselves deeply in the past to, for example, excavate the Punjabi-Mexican community of the Central Valley or to research and create a traditional Ohlone presentation basket—something no Rumsien Ohlone artist has done in 300 years.”

Since 1994, the Creative Work Fund has contributed $7.4 million to advance art making by Bay Area artists in a variety of disciplines.  For its first decade, the Creative Work Fund focused exclusively on artists and organizations in San Francisco and Alameda counties. Since 2004, its geographic scope has expanded to include twelve additional Bay Area counties and the 2009 grant recipients stretch from Sonoma to Monterey County.

Grants are highly competitive. The Fund received 130 initial inquiries, ultimately supporting 17 outstanding projects with awards ranging in size from $30,000 to $40,000.

Below are descriptions of the traditional arts projects.  For information on the media projects, please visit the Creative Work Fund's website.

2009 Traditional Arts Awardees and Collaborators

Linda Yamane (Seaside) collaborating with Monterey History & Arts Association (Monterey)Photo of Basket by Linda Yamane (Rumsien Ohlone)

Linda Yamane is collaborating with the Monterey History & Art Association – Monterey Maritime & History Museum to create a rare Ohlone presentation basket whose surface is interwoven with tiny iridescent green feathers of the mallard duck and a pattern of red. The artist estimates that a basket of this type has not been made in 300 years. Linda Yamane is a descendant of the Rumsien Ohlone, the native people of the Monterey area and an accomplished basketweaver, who has been instrumental to bringing back the tradition of Ohlone basketweaving from the brink of extinction by researching the basketry styles, plant materials, and weaving techniques for more than 20 years. The Monterey History & Art Association’s Maritime and History Museum sits on the site of an ancient Rumsien Ohlone fishing village yet does little to inform museum visitors about the area’s first inhabitants. Through this collaboration, the museum and artist will develop a dynamic permanent Rumsien Ohlone cultural exhibit that features the basket and a short documentary film about its creation. During the basket’s creation, the Museum will offer a series of related public programs and monthly excursions and workshops in which participants can take part in the gathering of basketmaking materials and learn more about the process. When the basket is completed, they will celebrate with an Ohlone Cultural Festival at the museum, featuring the new basket along with storytellers, performers, and cultural demonstrators from the Ohlone community.

Wan-Chao Chang (Fremont) collaborating with Gadung Kasturi Balinese Dance and Music (Richmond)

Dancer and choreographer Wan-Chao Chang is collaborating with Gadung Kasturi Balinese Dance and Music (Gadung Kasturi) to create a new 30-minute dance performance that will draw upon classical and contemporary dance—primarily in Chinese and Indonesian traditions—and incorporate original and live music on Chinese percussion instruments and Indonesian gamelan. “Keep Her Safe Please!” explores the ethnic tension and violence between Chinese and Indonesians that resulted in the Jakarta riots of 1998. Due to this upheaval, Wan-Chao Chang’s parents immigrated to Taiwan from Indonesia in the 1960s. By the late 1990s, Chinese people in Indonesia, especially women, were being raped and killed in unknown numbers. Wan-Chao Chang’s family received numerous letters from friends, begging them to take their daughters away from Indonesia and protect them. Wan-Chao Chang, founder and artistic director of Wan-Chao Dance, was born in Taiwan, where she trained in traditional Chinese and Western dance and music. Since arriving in San Francisco in 1995, she has taught and performed as a principal for the Chinese Folk Dance Association. In the 1990s, she began studying Indonesian dance, and, in 1996, joined Harsanari Indonesian Dance Company. Kompiang Metri-Davies performed with Gamelan Sekar Jaya and Lestari Indonesia before forming Gadung Kasturi in 2007. Also collaborating are composers Jason Jong, founder of Asian Crisis and the HEI GU Chinese Percussion Ensemble, and Midiyato, who teaches in the Department of Music at the University of California, Berkeley and directs Gamelan Sari Raras.

Antonia Minnecola (San Anselmo) collaborating with Afsaneh Art & Culture Society (Woodacre)

Antonia Minnecola is collaborating with Sharlyn Sawyer, artistic director of Ballet Afsaneh, and other artists to create a new performance work that draws upon the confluence of traditional cultures along the ancient Silk Road. The collaborators write, “The work is grounded in the shared desire to reveal the beauty and power of culture,” and the Silk Road theme is offered as a metaphor for positive and constructive cultural exchange. Antonia Minnecola is a traditional Kathak dancer while Ballet Afsaneh has delved deeply into the classical and folk dance and music of the Central Asia—Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Chinese Turkistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkey. Also collaborating are Bon Singer, founder and director of Ya Elah vocal ensemble; instrumentalists and composers Moses Sedler, Neema Hekmat, Pourya Khademi, Rachel Valfer, and Shira Kammen; percussionists Salar Nader, Salokhiddin Fakhriev, and Peter Maund; and dancer/choreographers Wan-Chao Chang and Miriam Peretz. Many of the cultures represented have intermingled and influenced each other over hundreds of years. Antonia Minnecola works in the traditional style of Kathak from Northern India and tours extensively with Zakir Hussain. Founded in 1986, Afsaneh Art & Culture Society works to strengthen bonds among the Central Asian immigrant community, promote the intergenerational transfer of cultural assets, and further engage the participation of its community base among Iranian- and Afghan-Americans, South Asians, multi-cultural aficionados, and other members of the general public.

Maria Poletaeva (El Cerrito) collaborating with Kitka, Inc. (Oakland) and the Russian folk arts collective Kedry

Maria Poletaeva and the Russian folk arts collective Kedry are collaborating with Kitka and Tatiana Teodorovich to create Transplanting Mokosha, an inter-generational outdoor musical ritual transforming ancient rural Russian customs associated with the autumn Feast Day of Mokosha for contemporary California audiences. Content for the project will be generated through an updated version of the traditional Slavic posidelki (women’s work circle) where songs and stories are passed along while women work with their hands to prepare food or create clothing and handiwork. Six culminating performance rituals will be presented in fall 2010 at state parks in Santa Clara and Alameda counties and at Sonoma County’s Fort Ross Historic State Park, the site of an 18th Century Russian Settlement. Kedry Co-director Maria Poletaeva is an expert in Russian folklore, specializing in traditional ritual and children’s songs and food ways. Tatiana Teodorovich, a graduate of Novosibirsk State University in Siberia, is a respected expert on (and maker of) Russian national costumes and traditional dolls and one of the few contemporary practitioners of Mezen-style painting. Russian House Kedry provides a venue for development and support of linguistic and artistic traditions in households where Russian language is a part of family culture. Founded in 1979, Kitka, a professional vocal ensemble, produces concerts, recordings, and educational programs that develop new audiences for music rooted in Eastern European women’s vocal traditions.

Tashi Sharzur (Techung) (San Mateo) and other musicians collaborating with Door Dog Music Productions (San Francisco)

Tibetan musician, composer, and traditional opera director Tashi Dhondup Sharzur (Techung) is collaborating with Door Dog Music Productions and other Central Asian artists to create Spirits of the Steppes. The artists will explore music of ancient rites and rituals, including Manas, the world’s longest epic poem based on the legends of the Kyrgyz people from Central Asia; Hindi ceremonies; Israeli desert music; Tibetan shamanistic rituals from the Himalayan and Pamir Steppes; Sufi percussion; and Armenian and Kurdish rituals. Techung is known for his performances of traditional Tibetan music, dance and opera. Born in Dharamshala India, he was enrolled age nine in the Tibetan Dance and Drama School, where he studied all aspects of Tibetan performing arts and later toured internationally as a leading child actor. After immigrating to the United States, in 1989, he co-founded Chaksampa Tibetan Dance and Opera Company in San Francisco. Other participants include legendary Kyrgyz epic Manas singer Talantaaly Bakchiev from Bishkek Kyrgyzstan; Israeli oud, violin master and composer Yair Dalal; Armenian oud master Yervant Bostanci from Kurdistan; Indian female traditional Khayal singer Shweta Jhaveri; and Persian master percussionist Pejman Hadadi. Collaborating on scenic elements and photographic projections are James Block and Matthew Antaky. Door Dog Music Productions is a presenting and producing organization that supports and promotes the diversity of cultures through the rich music within each culture. Its main program is the annual San Francisco World Music Festival.

Sali Rumen Shopov (Berkeley) collaborating with Voice of Roma (Sebastopol)

Sali Rumen Shopov is collaborating with Voice of Roma and its program director, dancer and choreographer Sani Rifati; Peter Jacques, Director of Brass Menazeri; and the Bay Area’s Brass Liberation Orchestra to create and perform a repertoire of processional street music based on Balkan Romani traditions. The Roma, often called “Gypsies,” are a stateless ethnic group that originated in and migrated from northern India over 1,000 years ago. They now live all over the world and are the largest minority group in Europe. Romani cultural arts traditions include Balkan brass band music and line dancing, Flamenco, and “Gypsy jazz.” This collaboration will infuse traditional brass band processional music with contemporary rhythms, dance, and music. Sali Shopov is a renowned Rom artist from a crossroads town in Southwest Bulgaria. He is one of the greatest living exponents of the southern Bulgarian/northern Greek style of ceremonial and celebratory tapan, a large double-headed drum—the lead percussion instrument driving the rhythm of Romani Balkan processional brass band music and dancing. He also is known for his virtuosity on the tambura, bouzouki, and doumbek, and his prowess as a vocalist. Founded in 1996, Voice of Roma presents Romani cultural arts and traditions in a way that counters romanticized and negative Gypsy stereotypes, and contributes to the preservation of Romani identity and culture. Since 1997, it has presented the annual California Herdeljezi Festival in Sebastopol.

Joti Singh (San Francisco) collaborating with Zenon Barron and Ensambles Ballet Folklorico de San Francisco (San Francisco)

Bhangra dancer and choreographer Joti Singh and Ensambles Ballet Folklorico de San Francisco (Ensambles) will combine Bhangra and Mexican Folklorico dance to create a piece exploring the Punjabi-Mexican communities of the Imperial, San Joaquin, and Sacramento valleys of California. Bhangra is traditionally a harvest dance from the state of Punjab in India—a region where agriculture is the main source of work. In the early 20th Century, many men migrated to the United States from Punjab and because immigration policies were strict and discriminatory, they were not able to bring wives and were excluded from U.S. citizenship and land ownership. Many of them married Mexican women. For the most part, children from these unions were brought up with Mexican and American culture, but the men held onto Punjabi culture through food and death. Joti Singh, Mexican folklorico choreographer and researcher Zenon Barron, and Ensambles will use themes of death and diet as lenses for exploring constructions of ethnicity and cultural identity. Joti Singh learned the Bhangra dance form as a child from her father, a musician, and her uncles and aunts. She performs traditional and contemporary forms of Bhangra with her company Duniya Dance and Drum Company. Founded in 1992, Ensambles is an innovative, theatrical body of dancers committed to the preservation of folklorico dance. The finished work will be presented at the Cowell Theater in San Francisco and San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton.

Jay van Arsdale (Oakland) collaborating with Friends of the Japanese Garden (Alameda) and fiscal sponsor Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation

Photo of Jay van Arsdale's Traditional Japanese WoodworkingJay van Arsdale, a master of traditional Japanese woodworking, and Friends of the Japanese Garden will design, build, and install 250 lineal feet of fencing, executed in the traditional Japanese method and style, to enclose and announce the revival of Oakland’s Japanese Garden near Lake Merritt. The Japanese Garden was designed and built more than 50 years ago primarily by members of the Japanese-American community of the East Bay. It fell into disrepair and, in the 1980s, the Merritt College Pruning Club commenced a project to restore and maintain it. A dedicated group of volunteers has continued this work. Artist Jay van Arsdale will collaborate with them to enclose the garden with authentically detailed and styled Japanese gates and fencing. Also assisting will be Laney College Joinery class students and other volunteers. The son of a blacksmith and a fifth generation craftsman, Jay van Arsdale was introduced to his vocation 30 years ago at a demonstration given by a Japanese tea house carpenter. He followed the daiku (teacher) for a number of years, learning through observation and practice, and continuing later with other daiku when his original teacher returned to Japan. A long-time leader of workshops in Japanese joinery, in 1999 he began teaching the only college level courses in Traditional Japanese Hand Tools and Joinery outside of Japan at Oakland’s Laney College. Friends of the Japanese Garden is a volunteer group operating under fiscal sponsor Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation.

For more information, please visit the Creative Work Fund's website.

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