This year, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) is awarding $200,000 to 40 organizations to support folk and traditional arts. Since 2005, the Living Cultures grants program have supported nearly 700 community-based projects, with $3.4 million in funding across 50 counties in California.
The annual grant supports cultural communities and Native California tribes engaging in traditional practices which include dance, music, material arts, foodways, and storytelling, through $5,000 awards to organizations. This year’s cohort represents a diverse array of cultural communities and their respective artistic forms of knowledge. We’re proud to promote them all, from Lucumí/Ifa healing songs and African drum rhythms in Oakland to the many practices celebrating Japanese, Mexican, and African American cultural heritage and transformative creativity in Los Angeles.
“California is on the leading edge of demographic change for the country,” says ACTA’s executive director Amy Kitchener. “These grants provide artistic resources to deepen cultural practices and strengthen the connections between communities,” Kitchener says.
A distinguished panel of cultural and community experts reviewed applications over a three-day period, and ACTA’s board of directors approved the final grant selections. The Living Cultures Grants Program is supported by the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, The Flora & William Hewlett Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation, with additional support from the California Arts Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles Arts Commission.
Introducing our 2019 Grantees
Ballet Folklórico Nueva Antequera, Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of the organization.
African Queens Dance Company, Oakland
Dance and Drum Workshops
The Company will continue its long-time tradition of teaching children and adolescents, with the significant addition of African drum instruction.
Ballet Folklórica Nueva Antequera, Los Angeles
A Day in Oaxaca Festival
The dance group will produce its 20th festival, which annually brings together different ethnic groups—originally from the state of Oaxaca, Mexico—and showcases the richness of their respective cultures.
Bay Area Bomba y Plena Workshop, Oakland
Youth Bomba y Plena Workshop
Focused on one of Puerto Rico’s most vital musical genres, the workshop will educate children and young adults in musicianship, body coordination, expressiveness, bilingual literacy skills, and historical and cultural knowledge.
Berkeley Old Time Music Convention, Berkeley
Old-Time Bridges: West Virginia Connection
The BOTMC will host a five-day festival featuring exemplary West Virginia musicians: Kim Johnson with the Modock Rounders. These musicians will perform in concert, conduct master classes, and among other activities, take part in a panel discussion.
BrasArte: The Damasceno Brazilian Cultural Exchange, Oakland
Yemanja Arts Festival 2019
Honoring the goddess of the ocean in the candomblé tradition of Brazil, the festival will feature music and dance workshops, lectures, and a photo exhibit.
Chaksam-pa Tibetan Dance & Opera Company, El Cerrito
The Company will work with Bhalu Balu, one of the three Kongpo elders in the diaspora and keeper of traditional songs. Her musical treasures—passed down only orally until now—will be researched, transcribed, and ultimately, published online and made available for free to the Tibetan community and everyone else.
Dance Group Xorotroptzi, Culver City
Xorotroptzi Annual Concert San Diego
With the goals of preserving Bulgarian-American identity and enhancing awareness of their folk arts, the organization will plan, prepare, and present their cherished public concert.
Dancing Ci(y)phers, Oakland
Hip Hop’s Embodied Expression
The group will feature distinguished artists in workshops and panels with the goal of deepening the knowledge of and appreciation for Hip Hop in the Bay Area.
Ektaa Center, Irvine
In its 15th year, the Ektaa Center’s community celebration will feature several dance and music schools that have been integral to the Center, enabling the Indian community and others in Irvine to experience diverse musical and dance performances.
El Teatro de la Tierra, Fresno
El Teatro will organize a free community-based project called “Immigrant Theater,” led by Agustín Lira, that will offer families and individuals of all backgrounds an opportunity to learn the skills necessary to tell their stories through narratives, vignettes, and music.
Eszterlanc Hungarian Folk Ensemble, San Ramon
Eszterlanc Costume Project
The Ensemble will receive new locally-created costumes, hand embroidered by members of the group during “sewing circles,” that will be premiered in a new choreography at the festival.
Trilingual Mixtec artist and cultural activist, Miguel Villegas Ventura, will lead indigenous Mixtec families residing in Fresno through workshops aimed at preserving and transmitting Mixtec language and traditional foodways.
Great Leap, Inc., Los Angeles
Great Leap will organize the annual FandangObon. Co-produced by members of the band QUETZAL, this celebration brings participatory music and dance traditions of Mexican, Japanese and African American communities into one circle to remember common histories, share environmental knowledge and create community sin fronteras—without borders.
Hmong Association of Long Beach, Inc., Long Beach
Qeej Not Gangs Cultural Arts Program
The Association will continue an intergenerational cultural preservation program that creates a supportive and engaging creative village each Sunday at MacArthur Park to preserve the performance of qeej, a reeded mouth organ, and other meaningful expressive elements. Focused on youth, the program teaches cultural pride, respect for elders, artistic creativity, discipline, and confidence.
Ile Orunmila Afedefeyo, Los Angeles
Annual Egungun Jagun Masquerade
The group will host a masquerade with roots in Yoruban communities. This specific masquerade is unique in its blending of traditional Southwestern, African, Mexíca, and African-American languages and traditional arts. The arts event will be led by traditional elder Baba Fasagun with an understanding of the African diaspora as it lives and breathes in Los Angeles.
Japanese Cultural Fair, Santa Cruz
Japanese Cultural Fair
The Fair presents many examples of traditional Japanese culture available in California. It is an excellent opportunity for authentic practitioners of traditional Japanese culture to perform for and interact with a very appreciative and diverse audience.
JC Culture Foundation, Artesia
Lion/Dragon Dance/Drum Solo Workshop
The Foundation will host weekly workshops focused on advancing the quality of Chinese culture and arts, and providing opportunities for understanding and appreciation. Catered to youth, the program allows members to develop leadership and communication skills.
Kalingafornia Laga, Castro Valley
Manlaga Tako! (Let’s Weave Together!)
The Filipino-American women’s weaving circle will continue promoting and preserving laga, the indigenous Kalinga people’s backstrap weaving tradition through demonstrations and weaving sessions. Activities are intended to create safe, healing spaces for the community to address decolonization, reclaim indigenous identity and strengthen community identity-building.
Kinnara Gagaku, Los Angeles
The musical group will purchase a new tsuri-daiko (suspended drum), the centerpiece of the three traditional percussion instruments, enabling them to continue practicing, preserving, and performing this ancient art form for many years to come.
KlezCalifornia, Inc., Berkeley
The musicians will conduct twelve klezmer music workshops, open to musicians playing any acoustic instrument and people who want to listen. The main goal is to increase knowledge of klezmer tunes and klezmer style. Additionally, workshops seek to improve participants’ skills in learning by ear as well as to form new musical relationships.
The Black Choreographers Festival: Here & Now
The organization will host a festival that creates a space where art-making is valued and traditional communities are celebrated. In its 15th year, the festival offers master classes, panels, and a film series, among other opportunities, for youth and all ages.
La Ultima Parada, San Jose
Celebration of Day of the Dead
The organization will hold its annual Dia de los Muertos celebration. The celebration will incorporate a community masked-dance with over 200 participants, live musical presentations, and food and drinks from difference cultural communities, as well as visual art displays, hands-on art activities, and a mercado.
Little Manila Rising, Stockton
Rondalla Music Training
The organization will expand its dance program to develop musicians to learn rondalla, a 7-person string ensemble. The project will be led by dance director Brian Batugo in collaboration with Herna Cruz-Louie and students at the American Center of Philippine Arts.
Manilatown Heritage Foundation, San Francisco
The Foundation will organize a program teaching kulintang music and dance traditions of the Maguindanao and Maranao tribes of the Southern Philippines and the gangsa, tongatong, singing and dance traditions of the Kalinga people of the Northern Philippines. Offerings will include monthly workshops, weekly classes, and an annual recital.
Network of Myanmar American Association, Monterey Park
Traditional dance classes and performances for youth
The organization will strengthen and improve its ability to fulfill its missions of cultural education and impact to the expanding Myanmar community. Specifically, they will purchase traditional cultural performance costumes, provide stipends for the dance teacher, and partially fund hourly rentals for dance classroom.
North American Guqin Association, Union City
Memories of Old Guqin Masters
The Association will put forth a multi-faceted project that will include a concert, master class, guqin exhibition, roundtable discussion, and documentary album. The project will also serve as an introduction to the guqin to the Bay Area community for whom a focus on Chinese culture is profound and historically timely.
Omnira Institute, Oakland
Roots of Faith, Roots of Freedom
The Institute’s activities are presentations/lecture demonstrations/ rituals. Holistic in content, they offer a variety of opportunities for healing through the Lucumi/Ifa spiritual tradition. Set in public forums where Black community members are prevalent, every presentation provides an opportunity for audience members to participate in the healing by singing and ‘shouting,’ which is a form of holy music and dance.
Purple Silk Music Education (PSMEF), Oakland
Traditional Cantonese Music Project
The organization will continue to engage underserved public school students (grades 1-12) in the study of traditional Chinese music. In particular, it will introduce a special learning unit in its music education program focused on teaching Cantonese opera and folk music. Students and artists will learn about the traditions and techniques from traditional artists as well as rehearse and perform new repertoire.
Ravi and Shashi Bellare Arts Foundation, Chino Hills
Festival of Tabla
The Festival aims to bring together solo tabla performance, along with its age-old repertoire of original compositions, and the oral tradition of ancient rhythmic shlokas (poetry). Additionally, the Festival hopes to curate a program of poetry, visual art, and performance, analogous practices to tabla arts, so as to situate these practices in conversation with one another for a 21st-century audience.
Regional Organization of Oaxaca, Los Angeles
Creatividad Sin Limites/Creativity Without Limits
The Organization’s project is focused on children and youth. It puts forth craft workshops led by master artists, with the objective of keeping the Oaxacan community active through creativity.
Rhythm Arts Alliance, Los Angeles
African Drumming and Dununba Festival
The Alliance will offer weekly, multi-generational traditional West African arts workshops and their annual festival, a key event that brings the Leimert Park community together in celebration.
San Francisco Guzheng Music Society, San Francisco
2019 Annual Concert
The Society will produce a concert in San Francisco featuring guzheng and other traditional instruments. The concert will expose the community and public to the rich cultural heritage of Chinese music and tradition.
Senderos, Santa Cruz
Reconnecting to Our Roots: Mexican Traditional Dance and Music
The organization will offer free Mexican folkloric dance and traditional Oaxacan banda de viento music instruction for Latino immigrant youth, in safe, family-centered after-school activities where participants learn about and stay connected to their cultural heritage.
Somali Youth United, Inc., San Diego
Back to Our Roots, “Dib Ugu Noqosho”
The organization will promote Buran’Bur, a traditional art combining oral history, song, dance and costuming. The focus is on training new female performers, to carry forth their oral history and share their rich heritage.
The Latino Commission Central Valley Nuevo Comienzo, Orosi
Orgullo Regional Project
The Commission will promote the Mexican musical tradition of regional norteño amongst youth through classes and workshops. The main goal is to enrich knowledge and appreciation for this genre as well as offer positive experiences and opportunities to connect with each other.
The VA’V Ensemble, Fremont
Vietnamese Traditional Music Workshops
The Ensemble will partner with the Vietnamese Education & Cultural Association to produce a pilot music workshop series for the multi-generational Vietnamese-American community in the East Bay. It will culminate with a recital for students, parents, and friends as well as for the public.
Theatre of Yugen, San Francisco
Kyogen Costume Workshop
Nick Ishimaru, Artistic Director and Costume Designer at Theatre of Yugen, will receive hands-on training from noted kyogen performer and teacher Yuriko Doi on the preservation, design, repair, fabric selection and detailing of kyogen costumes.
Ukrainian Art Center, Inc., Los Angeles
The Center will produce four workshops featuring Ukrainian pysanky (egg decorating), embroidery, straw art and culinary arts. The main goal is to regenerate interest and expertise by teaching artistic techniques to individuals who might not be aware of Ukrainian artistic heritage.
Umoja Ensemble of the Inland Empire, San Bernardino
Inland Empires Annual Ultimate Doundounba Festival 2019
The Ensemble’s festival will revitalize the tradition of the doundounba, along with West African dancing and drumming. Participants will be involved in workshops, lectures, showcases and a competition.
Voice of Roma, Sebastopol
22nd Annual California Herdeljezi Roma Festival
This festival features traditional Romani (Gypsy) cultural arts and music, providing a unique opportunity for Romani artists to connect with each other as well as with a wide audience in the Bay Area.
The Living Cultures Grants Program is supported by the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation, with additional support from the California Arts Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles Arts Commission.
Read the full press release .