Caption: Master basket weaver Margaret Lee Peters (L; Yurok) and her 2018 ACTA Apprentice, Nelia Marshall (R; Hupa), dig together in Humboldt County, California, for hazel sticks and spruce roots in the Yurok, Karuk, and Hoopa cultural practice of making traditional baby baskets. The roots will be cleaned and trimmed to become weaving material. Photo: Jennifer Joy Jameson/ACTA.

Taproot Artists & Community Trust

Celebrating Traditional Artists as Community Leaders

The Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) announces the new Taproot Artists & Community Trust program, dedicated to honoring and uplifting accomplished US-based traditional artists who serve as community leaders and catalysts for social change in the United States. This initiative is funded by the Mellon Foundation.

Angkor Dance Troupe artists perform Robam Trot for Khmer New Year to bring prosperity and happiness to the community in Lowell, MA. Photo: Courtesy of Angkor Dance Troupe.
Overview of ACTA

The Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) promotes and supports ways for cultural traditions to thrive now and into the future. Our vision is for a culturally and racially equitable California. In our increasingly fractured society, we believe ACTA plays a critical role in shaping a positive future for California and the nation where the unique value of every culture is respected, sustained, and appreciated. Through our programs, services, and funding opportunities for the traditional arts, we are weaving a more integrated, just, and empathetic social fabric with local, regional, national, and international impacts. Nationally, ACTA serves as a thought leader and innovator in the public folklore field through research, convenings, and advocacy.

Taproot Artists & Community Trust Program

Through our research, we have learned that Taproot Artists harness generational and ancestral   knowledge, hold and advance shared community values, aesthetics, memory, language, and sacred wisdom. We also recognize the profound impact that nurturing cultural and traditional arts has on the health and wellbeing of local communities.

The Taproot program provides an unprecedented opportunity to offer catalytic support and recognition for accomplished traditional artists and culture bearers throughout the country. Over a three-year period, ACTA will award 50 grants of $50,000 each, along with tailored services designed to strengthen community-based systems of cultural transmission and grassroots health and wellbeing. 

The Taproot program will positively influence local arts ecosystems nationwide with three key strategies:

  • DIRECT SUPPORT: Each grantee will receive $50,000 in unrestricted funding, along with an additional $10,000 for community-focused projects, totaling a $60,000 investment. 
  • SUSTAINABILITY: Artists have the option to participate in a cohort aimed at increasing opportunities and fostering a learning environment tailored to their needs. This includes customized services grounded in cultural context and multiple opportunities for the artists to share and learn from one another, as well as experts in the field.
  • VISIBILITY: We aim to uplift the stories and impacts of traditional artists, elevating their visibility and advancing a national dialogue about the crucial role of grassroots arts and cultural knowledge in community health and wellness.
1996 NEA National Heritage Fellow and founder of Harlem-based Puerto Rican ensemble Los Pleneros de la 21, Juan Gutierrez. Photo: Tom Pich Photography.

Fall 2023: ACTA will invite nominators – people who are working deeply with living cultural heritage from across the United States and Territories, to submit names of traditional artists and culture bearers to apply for the Taproot grant. Nominees will be invited to information sessions to provide guidance on the proposal process.

Spring 2024: A panel of cultural bearers, cultural workers and specialists will review and rank the proposals. The first grants will be announced in late April 2024.

Learn More

For more information about the Taproot Artists & Community Trust program, contact Amy Kitchener at Sign up to receive periodic updates about this program and other news from ACTA here.


Read the Report

Read or download ACTA's new report, "Tending the Taproot: Opportunities to Support Folk & Traditional Arts in the United States."


The Taproot Artist + Community Trust is generously supported by the Mellon Foundation.

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at

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