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Announcing a Major Expansion of our Arts Education Grant Offerings

By Josy Miller, Arts Education Program Specialist

The California Arts Council is thrilled to announce that we are now accepting applications for the 2016-17 Artists in Schools grant program! Due to an increased investment by the Governor and the Legislature this year, we’ve been able to craft a major expansion of our arts education funding opportunities, including new grants to support dedicated afterschool and summer programs, field trips and assemblies, and early childhood arts learning.

A longstanding investment in California’s young people

Initiated in 1976, the Artists in Schools (AIS) program is one of our longest standing grant programs. For forty years, our Council has invested in school-based residency programs that offer high quality arts education to California students by California teaching artists. In many cases, these programs have been the sole opportunity for students to experience dedicated arts learning at school. The Artists in Schools program underscores the critical role the arts play in students’ development of creativity, overall well-being, and academic achievement.

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Current AIS grantees include San Diego’s Malashock Dance, whose Math in Motion program teaches students dance technique and choreography using mathematical concepts as tools. The City of San Fernando’s Mariachi Masters Apprentice program connects Grammy Award-winning musicians with underserved middle school students, incorporating artistic and historical instruction to preserve traditional mariachi music. Luna Kids Dance not only implements comprehensive K-5 dance education programs in multiple Oakland public schools, they offer a Professional Development program for classroom teachers in order to extend the impact of the teaching artist residencies.

Click here to see descriptions of all our current Artists in Schools grantees!

Growing resources, growing support

Last year, we awarded more than $1.3 million in grants to 144 organizations that employed 580 teaching artists to provide arts education to more than 43,000 California school children in grades K – 12. When notice came of the increased investment in CAC programs this year, our Council stood by the desire of the Legislature and of California residents to “improve the state of arts education in California schools,” articulated as a top priority in the agency’s statewide listening tour in 2013. This year, our Council approved an additional $400,000 in grant funding to support the arts education expansion, bringing our investment to upwards of $1.7 million for the new grant cycle.

What’s new?

This expansion will increase support for arts education in a number of ways. First, the maximum grant award for organizations operating school residencies through the AIS Engagement program will increase from $12,000 to $18,000, significantly extending the capacity of these programs.

Secondly, while the Artists in Schools program has historically focused its funding on in-school residencies, the new AIS Extension grant program will support afterschool and summer arts education opportunities, both in community settings and on school campuses.

Additionally, the new AIS Exposure program will provide support for arts organizations to perform or present at school assemblies, and to host field trips to professional arts venues. While the CAC certainly maintains its commitment to and belief in sustained, sequential arts education, many of us also remember the first time we experienced professional-caliber art – in a theater, in a recital hall, in a museum, or with a guest appearing in our very own classroom. And for many of us, our lifelong, passionate commitments to the arts are a direct result of those first tastes of its transformative power. The Exposure program will assist the world-class arts organizations of California in providing these opportunities to thousands of young people this year.

Last – but absolutely not least – as part of the arts education expansion, we are extending our support to programs that work with our youngest Californians. All of this year’s programs will be open to application by organizations that provide arts education to children in their first five years of life (PreK). A growing body of research demonstrates that many of the most egregious and irreparable contributors to achievement gaps have already been established by the time children enter kindergarten. The California Arts Council is determined to support arts from the outset, and to do our part to ensure the benefits of arts-rich lives to each and every Californian.

The California Arts Council and our staff are delighted to share news of these expanded opportunities and hope that you will visit the Artists in Schools landing page on our website for more information and to apply!

Make sure to join us for a live webinar on December 8th, 2016 at 11AM PST, when the programs staff will review the goals of the Artists in Schools program, the requirements of the various funding strands, and the application process. Please register for the webinar here.

And remember, Artists in Schools is just one of fourteen grant programs we’re offering this year! Be sure to check out the full lineup of opportunities.


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Josy Miller
is the Arts Education Program Specialist at the California Arts Council. She can be reached at josy.miller@arts.ca.gov.

Top photo: Cal Arts Community Arts Partnership
Center photo: P.S. ARTS

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Giving Back to Those Who Served

California is home to nearly 2 million Veterans – more than any other state – accounting for 8.3% of our nation’s veterans. Our Council prioritizes the needs of veterans, and has seen firsthand how engagement with the arts and creative expression can benefit the quality of life for those who have served our country, and their families.

Soon entering its third year, our Veterans Initiative in the Arts grant program is uniquely designed to support nonprofit arts organizations, local arts agencies, and veterans’ assistance agencies ability to serve veterans, active military, and their families through local arts programming. This year, we supported 33 projects and invested more than $300,000 through these grants.

The work of our grantees is making a difference in communities across California. Today we’re proud to showcase a few stories illustrating the power of arts and creative expression to support, encourage, and in some cases, heal, our former servicemen and women.

DIAVOLO – Architecture in Motion

Currently, DIAVOLO dance company is offering Los Angeles Veterans a one-of-a-kind immersive dance experience. After nine DIAVOLO movement workshops for Veterans, the company chose eight Veterans to be a part of their engagement experience. During a period of four months, these eight individuals rehearse at a professional dance studio three times a week under the direction of DIAVOLO Artistic Director, Jacques Heim, and Institute Director, Dusty Alvarado. DIAVOLO company dancers are also present, offering a true, professional dance company experience.

diavoloDuring these rehearsals, the eight Veterans are trained, educated, and encouraged to create material that allows them to express themselves in new ways. The final product of these rehearsals is a showing of a piece, but the process of getting to that point is at the core of this program.

Chris was active duty in Iraq 10 years ago. Following his service, he joined the Los Angeles Police Department. He has since then resigned on medical leave. Constantly struggling with PTSD, he has sought after doctors and therapists. After two weeks in our studio, Chris called Institute Director, Dusty Alvarado and said, “I’ve never felt more calm and more at peace in the past 10 years than when I am dancing with you guys.”

Alvarado shared that the entire organization of DIAVOLO has become a part of this experience. “The Veteran participants see this, are honored by it, and take even greater pride in the work they are doing here. We are showing up and saying ‘this is important to us. We want to highlight you guys in the best way we know how… through dance.’ We have created a safe place for these individuals where their voices can be heard.” Alvarado hopes this place helps them feel more grounded and more comfortable as they work on making the transition into civilian life.

The work of DIAVOLO is known to be intense, highly athletic, and daring. They are considered “warriors of dance.” Alvarado shared, “It only made sense that we would one day work with Veterans—intense, athletic, daring individuals. We did not take it easy on our Veterans. We pushed them past their own limits to what only we knew they could achieve.”

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

For several years, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) has implemented ArtOASIS, a program supporting the recovery of military personnel from the symptoms of combat-related stress. The partnership joins MCASD with Combat Arts San Diego to serve more than 75 active duty troops each year who are enrolled in the Overcoming Adversity and Stress Injury Support (OASIS) program of the Naval Medical Center San Diego.

mcasdCombat-related stress is an issue of great concern for the social and economic health of San Diego County—home to the largest concentration of military personnel and their families in the nation. Through ArtOASIS, more than 75 active-duty military enrolled in the OASIS Program at the Naval Medical Center experience regular outings to the calming environment and gardens of the Museum, evidence-based recreational therapy rooted in the arts, and the opportunity to have their artwork displayed in the museum galleries.

Education Curator Cris Scorza shares that ArtOASIS teaching artists have witnessed service members giving substance and voice to feelings and thoughts through different artistic media with positive effects. “The art classes provide a relaxed, non-clinical environment where they can relax and talk as peers. The art making process itself gives them the ability to control, articulate and externalize their negative experiences in a constructive way.”

Cris has seen personnel who have come into the program with prior art experience who have flourished in that setting, as well as personnel without any prior experience be surprised at how beneficial the creative process is. One special case was Carl, who at the beginning of his participation Carl was withdrawn. In his military service, Carl made bombs and received many awards for this skill. But in his time in treatment, he began to wonder how this skill would serve him in the future. Many of the participants shared this anxiety. What will follow military service? How will they restructure their lives? Responding to such questions was an essential aspect of the program.

sdmcaAs our teaching artists began to connect with Carl and showed him that they believed in his ability to have a future after the military, he began to gain confidence. Toward the end of the project, Carl was asking questions about drawing and writing as an option for his future and for sharing his story. He became excited about developing new skills. The art practice was just a vehicle for conversation. The true outcomes of this project were the personal connections the troops and artists developed, which allowed them to open up about nurturing innate talent, sharing personal narratives, and planning for civilian life.

As an added component, one OASIS graduate is serving as a teaching assistant with the mentoring of ArtOASIS teaching artists. He teaches from a place that is collegial with an understanding of the military approach. He has introduced tool-based art making to the new participants—a method that is both familiar and highly empathetic. ArtOASIS will continue to support graduates becoming teaching assistants as a way of demonstrating that both art and teaching are viable careers as service men and women transfer to the civilian world. ArtOASIS teaching assistants are paid an hourly rate and can translate the skills and teaching experience acquired in the position to work in other settings.

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In the town of Marysville,  veterans and local artists collaborated to create a large-scale, community art installation telling the story of the veteran experience:

Alameda County Arts Commission

With California Arts Council support, the Alameda County Arts Commission is providing a series of art activities integrated into events and counseling groups at the Oakland Vet Center that serves Alameda County Veterans. The goals are to provide Veterans with opportunities to express themselves in a supportive environment, develop art making skills, engage in community building, and strengthen partner and family bonds. The project includes displays at veteran service and civic venues.

Program Coordinator Violet Juno feels this work is important because there is such strong positive response from the Veterans community about incorporating art and the creative process into their services. “The Veterans, their readjustment counselors and Veteran service organization staff are very interested in partnering together to explore how the arts can support Veterans in their readjustment journey,” Violet shared. “This project creates a way for the Alameda County Arts Commission to provide support and expertise to this important part of our local community.”

Veterans participating in the program share that they find art making to be meditative, healing and empowering. One female Veteran participated in a workshop with her two teenage children and shared “We liked this. It’s therapeutic! We’d like to do it again.” Another young female Veteran added that “this art experience helps me get out of my comfort zone, meet people, and try new things.” And some participants have enjoyed using personal strengths from their military service in the art making process. “I like the teamwork needed for this project. I like the camaraderie and seeing what we can accomplish together,” a male Veteran, age 67 shared.


Our 2017 Veterans Initiative in the Arts program will open for applications on January 18, 2017. Click here to learn more about the program.

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Storytelling: Essential to the Human Spirit

Today, we’re proud to release the findings of an extensive evaluation of our support of nonprofit media organizations, specifically as it relates to arts and culture coverage and related projects. The report, Nonprofit Media Coverage of the Arts in California: Challenges and Opportunities, is the first of its kind — assessing the status of California nonprofit media organizations’ engagement with arts and culture, and the funding of such activities.

Foreword: Nonprofit Media Coverage of the Arts in California

By Caitlin Fitzwater, Communications Director, California Arts Council

Storytelling is essential to the human spirit. Stories move us, but beyond that they inspire action, deepen understanding, build bridges, and foster change. Storytelling, arts, and culture go hand in hand.

Public media is a key source through which storytelling is made available to all. With no cost for consumption, a radio can be all one needs to be transported and to stay informed. At its best, public media is embedded in communities, fostering the sharing of stories that are authentic to local cultures.

The California Arts Council, our state arts agency, recognizes these contributions as vital to California’s cultural ecosystem. Perhaps that’s why public media emerged as a grantmaking priority in 2013 when a one- time infusion of new state arts funding allowed our Council to “dream big” for the first time in a decade. Seeking to utilize one-time funding for programs that could show significant impact, the California Arts Council developed the Arts on the Air public media program.

KQED - KQED Producer Matthew Williams films artist Wendy MacNaughton at her drawing table.JPGThis pilot grant program was a high priority for the Council. But key to a productive investment is ensuring that grants are effectively serving the field and meeting the actual needs of California’s communities. After all, there’s little point in investing in something if you’re not getting it right. This is precisely why our Council prioritizes evaluation. Rigorous assessment takes many different forms, and in the case of our investment in public media, we wanted to discern, not assume, the true needs of the field. We wanted to deepen our knowledge of public media in California today as part of our assessment, and to foster new relationships along the way. That is why, after two years, the Council suspended the pilot program for a year to evaluate its effectiveness and impact.

In this case, our central evaluation activity was the convening of a California Arts and Public Media Summit in Oakland on June 23,2016. The field participated in the summit robustly and enthusiastically. And the project yielded great results: networking opportunities, relationship building, this report – and perhaps most importantly, better informed programming decisions for the California Arts Council. The public process has always been central to our work, but it is increasingly critical as we develop new programs with growing state arts funding resources. Public input is in our DNA as government funders. It is a crucial vehicle for involving all Californians in the investment of public resources.

The following report contains a summary of activities and input from public media experts and thought leaders across our state and the nation. We express our deepest thanks to all who participated. While this report is indeed informing the work of our Council right now, it’s not just for us. We hope the findings will be a helpful resource and conversation starter for all parties who are invested in the success of the public media field and its engagement with California’s cultural communities. Perhaps it goes without saying, but times are changing – and staying in touch with those doing the work on the ground is paramount to any funder or stakeholder’s success.

Our Council is embracing the evolution of our programs, welcoming change, and capitalizing on the realities of doing good work in a 21st-century California. We are all excited for what’s to come, and are grateful to have continual opportunities to build our knowledge together with our state’s vibrant and diverse communities.



aaeaaqaaaaaaaalaaaaajgrinjc1zjm4ltk3oditngy4ms1imtg0lwuzzmq3ndczztljywCaitlin Fitzwater
is the Communications Director for the California Arts Council, a position she has held since June 2013. Previously, in New York City, Caitlin served as the marketing manager for New York Public Radio, developing campaigns for nationally beloved radio programs including Radiolab and Studio 360. She also managed marketing efforts for the Public Theater and Playwrights Horizons Theater. Caitlin was a 2012-13 Executive Fellow at the Devos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, DC. She can be reached at caitlin.fitzwater@arts.ca.gov.

Photo Credits: Documania and KQED Arts

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Our “Grant Season” is Officially Underway!

UPDATED NOVEMBER 16, 2016

It’s the most wonderful time, of the year! And no, we’re not talking about the holiday season…

As of today, six of our grant programs are now open for applications — with eight more opening in the near future. As a result of increased state arts funding, this year we’ll award more grants than we have in 13 years as we support projects in fourteen unique grant programs. In fact, we may award as many as 1,000 grants this fiscal year… that’s more than triple the number of grants awarded annually in the past! 

The California Arts Council invests in California nonprofit organizations via competitive grant programs, administered through a multistep public process. Program details including availability, application deadlines, guidelines, and more can be found at http://arts.ca.gov/programs/.

 

Do you want to make a difference in your community? Do you want to build and grow a sustainable organization? Do you want to give back through culture and creative expression? Well, at the California Arts Council, we’re here to help!

Open Programs

Learn about all our grant programs at http://arts.ca.gov/programs/. The following grant programs are currently accepting applications as of 11/16/2016. 

ARTISTS ACTIVATING COMMUNITIES: Up to $18,000 for artist residencies in community settings.

ARTISTS IN SCHOOLS: Up to $18,000 supporting students’ overall well-being and academic achievement through arts engagement. New categories offered this year! 

CREATIVE CALIFORNIA COMMUNITIES: Up to $50,000 a year for small and mid-sized organizations and up to $75,000 a year for large organizations to support collaborative creative placemaking projects. Now a two-year grant program!

LOCAL IMPACT: Up to $18,000 for arts projects in underserved communities.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND CONSULTING: $1,000–$5,000 for capacity-building professional development or consulting projects for arts organizations.

STATEWIDE AND REGIONAL NETWORKS: Up to $30,000 to support culturally-specific, multicultural, and discipline-based statewide and regional arts networks and services organizations.

Sign-up for our Informational Webinar

Join us for an informational webinar on Thursday, December 1st when we’ll provide an overview of all of the California Arts Council’s 2016-17 grant programs, highlighting some changes and new additions to our grant offerings. Our programs staff will review the application process, provide some tips for grant writing success, and answer questions from the public. Click here to register.

Spread the Word

Offering a record number of grants means that we’re seeking a record number of applicants! This year we hope many organizations new to the California Arts Council family will consider applying for a grant, and we need your help to spread the word about the many opportunities for state arts funding. Here’s a flyer we encourage you to share. Complete details on open programs and upcoming deadlines can be found on our website at http://arts.ca.gov/programs/.

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Guest Post: On the Road as Poet Laureate

By Dana Gioia, California Poet Laureate

Being California Poet Laureate is an exciting experience, but it is also a humbling one. Our state is so big, populous, and diverse that it is more than any poet can handle. Since jumping into the job nine months ago, I have done 40 public events across 20 counties, and I feel as if I have hardly begun.

My goal as Poet Laureate has been to serve the entire state. But how does anyone do that? I decided that one relatively objective measure for reaching the whole state would be to visit every county—all 58 of them. One retired politician gave me some practical advice, “Don’t do it,” he said. “Once you get started, you’ll realize it’s impossible.” Never tell a poet not to do something. It makes the idea irresistible.

It probably would be impossible to visit all 58 counties if I didn’t have such active partners from the California Arts Council, the California Center for the Book, and the California State Library. They have helped me connect with people and communities I could never have reached on my own. Working together, we are now starting to fill up the intimidatingly large map of California counties.

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View the latest map on the new Poet Laureate website: www.capoetlaureate.net.

These early events have taught me some important things about realizing the potential of my unusual public office. The best plan is not just to visit every county in California; it is to create a literary event in each place that has a local element. A poetry reading is good, but group event is even better since it serves as a catalyst for the local cultural scene. So everywhere I go now, I try to find local partners.

One obvious form of partnership has been to present the local county champion or champions for Poetry Out Loud as part of the program. These kids worked hard to develop their winning recitations. I love having them perform alongside me, though they often steal the show. (Featuring the students also recognizes the valuable work of the local county art councils.)

I’m also trying to involve the county poets laureates. Their participation lets my visit become a mini-poetry festival as in Lake County where I appeared with four past and present local laureates.

Of course, there are many other ways to involve local writers, musicians, and artists. My statewide tour is just getting started. There are 38 counties to go—before I turn around and start again. I hope to meet you along the way.

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Dana Gioia with former and current Lake County Poets Laureates Casey Carner, Russell Gonzaga, Julie Adams, and Elaine Watt. July 6, 2016.
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Dana Gioia with students from the Get Lit after school program at the LA Times Festival of Books. April 9, 2016.

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DANA GIOIA is California’s new state Poet Laureate. Appointed by Governor Jerry Brown in December, 2015, Gioia serves as the state advocate for poetry and literature in libraries, classrooms and boardrooms across California. An award-winning poet, Gioia is the author of Can Poetry Matter?, which is credited for helping revive poetry’s role in American public life. He is also the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts where he championed arts education. As state laureate, Gioia will work to inspire a new generation of writers and celebrate California’s great literary legacy. www.capoetlaureate.net

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California Cultural Districts: What’s Next?

Updated 11/1/2016

As you may be aware, new California legislation has empowered the California Arts Council to designate areas as state cultural districts. A cultural district is defined as a geographical area with a concentration of cultural facilities, creative enterprises, or arts venues.

We know that every city and town in California is different, and we want to ensure that California’s first statewide cultural districts program is reflective of the unique realities, opportunities, and challenges that exist in communities large and small across our state.

That is why we are seeking input from you, the public, as we undergo the planning process for the new statewide cultural districts program. We are seeking public input to help us develop a program that is reflective of the distinct features that make our communities unique.

We’ve retained the services of consultants Jessica Cusick and Maria Rosario Jackson – experts in public and community arts – as the facilitators of our program development process. Throughout the planning process, we will be reaching out to our arts community, as well as key stakeholders from various sectors including local businesses, community organizations, chambers of commerce, local governments, main street associations, and departments of transportation, public safety, planning and development.

Public Input Meetings

Between now and November, we will be holding five public input meetings in various locations across the state. Click here to view a PDF of the presentation shared at these meetings.

  • “True North” Public Input Meeting – September 8th in Redding
  • Central Valley Public Input Meeting – September 29th  in Fresno
  • San Diego Region Public Input Meeting – October 3rd in Escondido
  • Bay Area Public Input Meeting – October 5th in Oakland
  • Los Angeles Public Input Meeting – October 24th in Los Angeles

Throughout this process, we will be asking key questions of communities across the state, such as:

  • When you think of “cultural districts,” what comes to mind for you?
  • What would be the benefits of a cultural district in your community?
  • Whose involvement would be essential to the success of a cultural district in your community?

Survey

All interested parties are encouraged to weigh-in via brief online survey, available at this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CAC-CD. The survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. (Survey now closed.)

This exciting opportunity would not be possible without the cultural districts legislation authors. We extend a special thank you to Assemblymember Richard Bloom and Assemblymember Marie Waldron for their leadership and support.

Our Council will review the program recommendations at our December meeting. It’s expected that the cultural districts program and application process will launch in 2017. In the meantime, our work continues, and we look forward to engaging with you along the way!


Want to stay up-to-date with the latest California Arts Council news? Sign up for our free California ArtBeat weekly newsletter at this link: http://arts.ca.gov/news/artbeat.php

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“40 Stories” Spotlight: Alliance for California Traditional Arts

To celebrate our 40th Anniversary, we asked forty of our amazing grantees, past and present, to tell the story of their work and their relationship with the California Arts Council. Throughout this anniversary year, we’ll be sharing excerpts from our special publication 40 Stories, 40 Years here on the blog. You can view the complete collection at this link.


Alliance for California Traditional Arts, Statewide

By Amy Kitchener, Executive Director

Year of first CAC Grant: 1997

Preserving Rich Cultural Traditions

Since its inception in 1997, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) has supported, advanced, and curated the rich work of California traditional artists of many disciplines, from cowboy poetry and African American quilting to Hmong qeej musical performance and Cahuilla bird song and dance. ACTA promotes and supports ways for cultural traditions to thrive now and into the future by investing in partnerships with hundreds of artists and groups. Our work is located in low-income, immigrant, refugee, and communities of color throughout the state of California and we’ve built a reputation focused on social change through grantmaking, capacity and leadership development, technical assistance, and bilingual program development.

Folk Arts and a Statewide Apprenticeship Program

ACTA got its start at the legendary CAC Asilomar Conference, where CAC brought together leaders and practitioners of the folk and traditional arts field to meet and consider what a statewide, coordinated, traditional folk arts effort might look like. At that historic meeting, we named ourselves the Alliance for California Traditional Arts and started work to reinstate a state apprenticeship program for California. We presented a resolution to
the conference attendees who embraced this initiative. Later that year, the CAC awarded ACTA’s first grants: $75,000 for a state apprenticeship program (matched by the National Endowment for the Arts) and $50,000 to compile and manage a database on statewide services and artists in the traditional folk arts field (also matched by NEA). ACTA’s origins are tied to the California Arts Council’s leadership as a convener and capacity builder
of the multicultural arts development field.

Leverage in the Lean Years

The CAC’s two initial significant investments launched ACTA as an organization and provided the resources to establish statewide services. The CAC continued its support for these initial programs on an annual basis until the drastic statewide arts cuts came in 2003. At that point, ACTA, now established as an independent nonprofit, had attracted other funders and was able to leverage CAC’s initial investments many times over. Today, ACTA has grown to be a $1.7M organization with 4 offices, in Fresno, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Santa Cruz, and a staff of 8. ACTA’s status as the CAC’s designated partner in serving California’s the folk and traditional arts field has been a significant lever in growing the organization.

 
View our ‪#MyCreativeCA video showcasing the ACTA’s work preserving the unique art forms of California’s diverse cultures. Some of these art forms are native to our state; others have traveled here from every corner of the globe.


staff_amy_kitchenerAMY KITCHENER, Executive Director, co-founded the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) in 1997.  Understanding California’s unique position as the nation’s epicenter for diverse cultural and multi-national communities, ACTA’s work has focused on social change through grantmaking, capacity and leadership development, technical assistance, and bilingual program development.  Trained as a public folklorist with an M. A. from UCLA, Amy has piloted participatory cultural asset mapping in neglected and rural areas of the state and consults with other organizations and across sectors on this method of discovery and inclusion of community voices.  She continues to serve as a consultant for many national organizations and has taken part in two U.S.-China Intangible Cultural Heritage exchanges. She has published on a variety subjects involving California folklife, including immigrant arts training and transmission, and Asian American folk arts.  Amy and husband Hugo Morales are the proud parents of twin boys who dance and sing with regularity.

View the complete 40 Stories, 40 Years collection at this link.

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Parting Perspectives from Longtime Staffer John Seto

Tomorrow is our friend and colleague John Seto’s last day at the Arts Council. We wish John all the best in his retirement, and we know we’ll be seeing him around. Today we share a special interview with John, as he reflects on his time at the Arts Council.


When did you join the California Arts Council, and how many years have you worked here in total?

I joined the Arts Council in 2000, at the apex of our agency funding. Altogether, I have close to 16 years with the State of California, and over 10 of those years were with the Arts Council. Between 2003 and 2008 I had to take a position with CalSTRS due to a devastating budget cut that Arts Council suffered and are finally recovering from with recent budget increases.

JohnSeto2What are some of your favorite memories of working at the California Arts Council?

As an emigrant, I was/am most mindful of the traditional and ethnically diverse constituents of our great state. Many of these organizations may be grass-roots in nature and not experienced in the areas of grants application. Yet, they are passionate about the preservation and their culture and identity. The Arts Council used to have three programs related to multiculturalism – Multicultural Entry, Multicultural Advancement, and Next Generation. And this year we launched our new Cultural Pathways program. These truly serve all unique cultures, and not just organizations of color. I’ve always felt that it was important for all people to acknowledge the uniqueness of world cultures and their historical richness. In the service of these applicants, I have learned much about diversity and the context in which world cultures have migrated to California, and how they are evolving in the new environment.

How was this work important to you?

The arts and the humanities are the essence of what distinguish us from other animals. We create visual arts, music, literature, plays, dance, etc. to celebrate and commemorate events important to our lives. The arts are individual or group expressions that come from the heart and soul and gives meaning to human existence. To work for a state agency that supports and funds collective cultural expressions reflective of our world is both humbling and extremely gratifying.

What will you miss the most about working at the Arts Council?

I will miss working with colleagues within our agency who all share the core values of services to the artists and cultural organizations that make California one of the creative centers of the world. While I will no longer be an administrator of grant programs and interact with constituents on a day-to-day basis, I plan to allocate some of my retirement time allotments to visit and participate in the activities being generated by the CAC’s many great grantees!

JohnSeto3In what ways are the arts a part of your daily life?

My daily life in the last 25 years have primarily been involved in participatory dancing – English country, contra, and international dancing of the Balkan styles. Our international group has also started a singing group, and now has a repertoire of over 40 songs. This year I have also been drafted and joined the board of the Country Dance and Song Society, a national group based in Massachusetts that celebrated its 100 anniversary last year. As part of the organizing local group, I also help the Sacramento Country Dance Society (https://sactocds.wordpress.com/contra-dance/) put on between 4 to 6 dances a month for English country and American contra dances that feature live music and a dance caller.

Enjoy retirement, John! Congratulations on your long tenure at the Arts Council, and thank you for your service to our arts communities.
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Serving the Field, Gaining Insight: Reflections from a Peer Review Panelist

By Jenny Wei
School & Teacher Programs Director, Palo Alto Art Center

As if spring isn’t a busy enough season for those of us who work with schools, this year I added serving on a California Arts Council grant panel for the Artists in Schools program to my to-do list. Eighty-one applications and three days in a Sacramento meeting room later, I am certain it was a good decision.

I wanted to be part of the peer-review process because it was clear that it would directly connect to my work at the Palo Alto Art Center and it would give me insights and experience to help my career.

For so many museums, grants provide vital revenue that, combined with individual gifts, enables us to serve our audiences. I have been involved in the receiving-end: finding funders, writing requests, and delivering final reports. But by being part of a peer-review panel, I felt I could take my grant-development skills to the next level. Our panel reviewed many applications, so I saw first-hand what was helpful to reviewers (like organizing information in bullets or adding notes to clarify your budget spreadsheet) and what stumbling blocks kept programs from fully telling their stories.

It seemed that in every proposal there was a tiny tweak that would add value to the Artists in Schools program I oversee at the Palo Alto Art Center. Ask partner schools to post a link to your program’s website—of course!  Send parents e-mail invitations to events in addition to paper invitations—why didn’t we think of that? I felt as though reading the grant proposals was like crowd-sourcing smart ideas from across the state.

As a wake-up call, I was disappointed to realize that my organization’s artist compensation was at a lower rate for our area. This was important for me to see, and I felt empowered to take my new perspective to our leadership to address this issue.

Aside from these specific tweaks and adjustments, I came away with two takeaways that were front-and-center for me:

  • There is no one way to be an outstanding applicant. We found great examples of programs working with completely different age groups—high school groups creating full-fledged productions and kindergartners showing the first glimmer of creative accomplishment. Also, as I didn’t grow up in California, I was intrigued by the diversity of California’s communities and the programs finely-tuned to serve them.
  • California’s teaching artists are doing awesome things for schools. It was energizing to think of each grant award both serving students and helping the livelihood of a teaching artist. We are so fortunate to have such wonderful educators in our communities!

Of course, I am also eager to rewrite a few sentences in our own grant applications to make our proposals just a little bit clearer for future panelists.

From the small program tweaks to the career experience, I took so much away from volunteering for my California Arts Council panel. Think about signing up next winter when the Arts Council issues their call for panelists. I’m sure you will also find it a rewarding experience.


JennyWeiJenny Wei is the School & Teacher Programs Director for the Palo Alto Art Center where she oversees the Cultural Kaleidoscope school outreach program. She came to the Art Center with a background as a museum educator, with several years and several positions at the Smithsonian Institution (most recently, the National Museum of American History) and one year teaching elementary students as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Yilan, Taiwan. She received her BA in Art History and Masters in the Art of Teaching in museum education from George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Featured Photo: Student artwork on display at the Palo Alto Art Center

LocalImpactPanelTwo

A Heartfelt Thank You

By Shelly Gilbride and Josy Miller

Spring is panel season at the California Arts Council, and as of June 3rd, spring has given way to summer and panel season has officially come to an end!

Over the course of the past three months, the California Arts Council has held 14 peer review panels to rank almost 1,000 applications to the Council’s grant programs. 64 panelists traveled to Sacramento from across the state, a group of individuals that included renowned scholars, educators, arts managers, and consultants, National Heritage Fellows, and exceptionally talented musicians, dancers, theatre practitioners, visual artists, street muralists, media artists, and poets.

Each panel convened for between two and three days at our offices in Sacramento. Our lovely (but windowless) conference room became a vibrant hub of intelligent and rigorous conversation about our grant programs, and about the challenges and opportunities currently facing artists and arts organizations in California. Sometimes discussions were heated, sometimes academic and esoteric, often humorous and joyful, but all of them were extraordinarily thoughtful.

We are profoundly grateful for the collective experience that we shared in through facilitating and witnessing all 14 of these panels. Each panelist read and reviewed applications independently before coming to Sacramento—sometimes as many as 80 each—and we were repeatedly impressed with the synthesis and analysis that each shared.

Something special happens when smart, insightful, generous people come together to work towards a common goal. The collective, in-person experience is what we who believe in the power of the arts truly cherish—the sharing of perspectives that allow discussions to evolve and to deepen, and ultimately to cohere in ways that move us all forward as a collective body.

We’re looking forward to our Council meeting in Richmond on June 16 where the Council will review the panel recommendations for our final six programs. Thank you to all 64 panelists who shared in the peer panel review experience this season, for your support of the creative, artistic work of Californians across the state!


Pictured above: The second of three panels for our Local Impact program. From left: staff member John Seto with Jennifer Laine, Valerie Janine Gutwirth, Joseph S Lewis, Donnie Matsuda, M.D., Ali Kenshaka

Shelly Gilbride is the Programs Officer for the California Arts Council. She can be reached at shelly.gilbride@arts.ca.gov.

Josy Miller is the Arts Education Program Specialist for the California Arts Council. She can be reached at josy.miller@arts.ca.gov.