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California Cultural Districts: What’s Next?

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.

Between now and November, we will be holding several public input meetings in various locations across the state, as noted below. Additional meetings in the Bay Area and Los Angeles Area will be announced soon.

Additionally, we will be issuing a survey to gather input online. Stay tuned for more info on this.

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?

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.

It’s expected that the cultural districts program and public application process will launch in early 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

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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.

Dana Gioia with cat Photo copyright © Star Black.2015

On the Road with California’s Poet Laureate

This summer, California’s Poet Laureate Dana Gioia will visit communities across the northern part of our state for a series of poetry readings and conversations, and other special events.

Appointed by Governor Jerry Brown in December 2015, Dana 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.

Here’s a list of upcoming public events. Join us!

Columbia – An Afternoon with Dana Gioia hosted by the Tuolumne County Arts Alliance

Saturday, June 18, 4 pm

Angelos’ Hall in the State Park of Columbia

11255 Jackson St, Columbia, CA 95310

info@tuolumnecountyarts.org

Click here to learn more.

Sacramento – Remarkable Artist Series presented by the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission

Sunday, June 26, 6 pm

Crocker Art Museum, Setzer Auditorium

216 O Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission presents The Remarkable Artist Series: California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning poet. He will be joined by the CA winner of the 2016 National Poetry Out Loud competition, Chigozie Maduchukwu. This event is presented in partnership with the Sacramento Poetry Center. Click here to RSVP online.

Davis – A Poetry Reading and Conversation

Tuesday, June 28, 7 pm

Stevens-Davis branch of Yolo County Library

315 E. 14th Street, Davis, CA 95616

530-757- 5593

Introduction by Andy Jones

Lakeport – A Poetry Reading and Conversation

Wednesday, July 6, 5:30 pm

Lakeport branch of Lake County Library

1425 N. High Street, Lakeport, CA 95453

707-263- 8817

Colusa – A Poetry Reading and Conversation

Thursday, July 7, 6:30 pm

Colusa County Library

738 Market Street, Colusa, CA 95932

530-458- 7671

Eureka – A Poetry Reading and Conversation

Monday, July 18, 7pm

Immanuel Lutheran Church

3230 Harrison Avenue, Eureka, California 95503

707- 839-4255

Joined by James McCubbrey of Eureka High School, Poetry Out Loud Champion for Humboldt County

Crescent City – A Poetry Reading and Conversation

Tuesday, July 19, 7 pm

Del Norte County Library

190 Price Mall, Crescent City, CA 95531

Yreka – A Poetry Reading and Conversation

Wednesday, July 20, 6:30 pm

Yreka Branch, Siskiyou County Library

719 4th Street, Yreka, CA 96097

Redding – A Poetry Reading and Conversation

Thursday, July 21, noon

Redding Library

1100 Parkview Avenue, Redding, CA 96001

 


 

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“40 Stories” Spotlight: California Lawyers for the 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.

Editor’s Note: California Lawyers for the Arts will hold their annual Artistic License Awards on May 17 in Sacramento, honoring Marcy Friedman, Senator Mark Leno, Art Luna, Senator Jim Nielsen, The Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus, and Ali Youssefi.


California Lawyers for the Arts

By Alma Robinson, Executive Director

Year of first CAC Grant: 1976

Legal Services, Educational Programs

California Lawyers for the Arts (CLA) was founded as Bay Area Lawyers for the Arts in 1974, the third “lawyers for the arts” organization established in the US (after New York and Chicago). CAC funding provided recognition that our legal services and educational programs were worthy of support from the State of California.

Our early funding from the CAC, which required matching grants, also provided leverage for additional support from foundations and other public agencies. For example, our mediation program—the first in the nation for artists and arts organizations—was able to garner support from the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. This program became the model for similar programs that we helped to start at art/law organizations throughout the country.

Expanding Reach, Building Relationships

As a result of the CAC’s rigorous application process, we improved our organizational practices in budgeting, strategic planning, personnel management and program design. Knowing that the organization would be reviewed by a panel representing peer organizations around the state inspired us to strive for excellence in our business practices as well as in service delivery. Our organization also benefitted from participating in a series of CAC convenings that brought together arts service organizations, state/local partners and other arts leaders from around California. Through CAC leadership, we built strong relationships with Southern California colleagues who encouraged us to expand our services to Los Angeles. The CAC has been our most reliable funder since the inception of our organization in 1974.

Operating Support Sustains the Core

We applaud the CAC for providing arts organizations with general operating support, which is under-valued by many philanthropic organizations. As a grantee in the Statewide Networks program, we have used the funds to sustain our core programs and services that provide “infrastructure” for the arts community. In the past year, 1,617 individuals participated in 81 CLA  educational events, 1,300 persons participated in mediation services, and 636 clients were matched with attorneys. We have also worked successfully with the CAC to develop a strong platform for public awareness of the value of the arts in solving our state’s most pressing issues, including environmental concerns, public safety, youth development, and over-incarceration.


AlmaRobinsonAlma Robinson has worked for the California Lawyers for the Arts since 1981. An attorney, she was the founding director of CLA’s Arts Arbitration and Mediation Services and initiated Arts Resolution Services, a national network of art/law organizations providing mediation services modeled on CLA’s. program, as well as CLA’s Arts and Community Development Program, which provides job training in the arts for disadvantaged youth and became the model for similar programs in Texas and Washington, D.C. She was a founding board member of California Arts Advocates and the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.

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

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“40 Stories” Spotlight: Juan Felipe Herrera

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.

Editor’s Note: This week, we’re proud to feature a story from Juan Felipe Herrera, who was just reappointed  for a second year as United States Poet Laureate. 


Juan Felipe Herrera, Fresno

By Juan Felipe Herrera, United States Poet Laureate

Year of first CAC Grant: 1976

Dreams Fulfilled

The four grants that I received from 1976–1987 allowed me to fulfill my dreams as a community poet, artist and arts catalyst. My first grant, for the Expresión Library project, saved me – like all of the California Arts Council grants. My life has been devoted to the arts and to the community; in 1976, my financial resources were few, if any. And my one chance to survive financially was through a CAC grant. I organized a city and county-wide set of exhibits, forums and readings. This gave artists public space to set their works into motion. The next step was a new literary form, at least in San Diego.

A New Poetics

Each of my CAC grants propelled me, urged me, fascinated me, encouraged me and expanded my sense of the powers, compassions, and condorwingspan reach of poetry in the community. Each project was new. Each outcome was inspirational. Each step was a necessary move on the path to a new poetics and self.

Walking to a Crossroads

From 2012 to 2014 I was the California Poet Laureate. Today, I am the United States Poet Laureate. My current project is called Casa de Colores, House of Colors. You can view it online at the Library of Congress website. It is an outcome of many years of experimentation and trials and new findings – and I give great credit to the CAC for walking me to this new crossroads.

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Juan Felipe Herrera on the floor of the California State Senate. July 6, 2015. Photo by Lorie Shelley. 

JFHJUAN FELIPE HERRERA The son of migrant farm workers, Herrera was educated at UCLA and Stanford University, and he earned his M.F.A from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In addition to publishing more than a dozen collections of poetry, Herrera has written short stories, young adult novels, and children’s literature. In 2012, Herrera was named California’s Poet Laureate, and the U.S. Poet Laureate in 2015. He has won the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction, the Focal Award, two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, and a PEN West Poetry Award. www.juanfelipepoet.com  (Photos by Ted Catanzaro unless otherwise noted)

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

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“40 Stories” Spotlight: Radio Bilingüe

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.


Radio Bilingüe, Fresno

By Hugo Morales, Co-Founder and Executive Director

Year of First CAC Grant: Early 1980s

Changing the Future

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Radio Bilingüe Original Artwork by Malaquias Montoya 1976

In the early 1980s, the CAC changed the future of Radio Bilingüe (for the first but not last time) by awarding a grant for training of young Latinas and Latinos living in the San Joaquin Valley in the art of radio soon after we had launched our first Latino-controlled
bilingual community radio station, KSJV in Fresno. The grant trained our small young staff of volunteers and scores of unpaid community volunteers who developed all of the first beautiful music, cultural and information programming that got Radio Bilingüe on its way to becoming what it is today – the leading content service and producer of Spanish and Latino-oriented programming in public broadcasting in the United States.

Independent Evaluation Confirms Our Impact

In 1987 the CAC once again literally transformed Radio Bilingüe as a sustainable non-commercial enterprise by funding an independent evaluation through a multicultural grant program. The study showed that the majority of Latinos sampled from phone books in the San Joaquin Valley had listened to Radio Bilingüe in the past 24 hours! The results led us to adopt a lifelong organizational culture of independent evaluation and internal learning, in order to continually have impact and improve our services to our audience. This has allowed us to tell our story and make our case to hundreds of foundations that have supported our work in the arts and other areas critical to Latinos: health access, educational access, immigration policy and more.

Celebrating Tradition, Welcoming Innovation

Radio Bilingüe is now considered one of the most significant promoters of musical and cultural traditions and innovations of diverse Latino and indigenous communities—an on-air curator for under-reported and under-covered arts and artists. Our daily radio
programming continues to celebrate and promote traditional music and culture, in Spanish, English and indigenous languages. This is totally absent from commercial Spanish language media.

CAC’s recent Arts on the Air program made possible a beautiful series in 2014-15: “Raíces: Los Maestros,” highlighting innovative California -based Latino artists who are helping to ensure that new generations know and experience art and what it can offer for their lives
and communities. This year, CAC’s Arts on the Air grant is supporting our series centered around folk festivals of distinct indigenous migrant groups burgeoning throughout our state.


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HUGO MORALES is a Mixtec Indian from Oaxaca, Mexico who at the age of nine immigrated to California with his family. He grew up picking grapes and attending public school in Sonoma County, CA, then went on to graduate from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. In 1976 he was the moving force of a group of Latino farmworkers, artists, activists and teachers that founded Radio Bilingüe in California’s San Joaquin Valley, and he has led the organization ever since to its current position as a major national public media service.

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

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Losing Our Voice

When Diane Golling stumbled across a job posting for an Executive Secretary at the California Arts Council, she couldn’t resist applying. It sounded like the perfect “day job” for someone who had always supplemented her life in the arts with a series of office gigs. It was 2006 and she was working a part-time civil service job while writing historical romance novels. “In the interview,” Diane recalls, “I asked if I could do the Arts Council job part time.” According to Diane, “They laughed and laughed.”

She took the job anyway.

For nearly ten years, Diane has devoted to the California Arts Council a considerable chunk of what would otherwise be prime writing time. She plunged in with enthusiasm, volunteered for several roles that became permanent additions to her responsibilities, and made herself indispensable as the agency’s proofreader, copy editor, and social media maven—for which she received a promotion to Administrative Assistant, since “Executive Secretary” no longer described her job. She brought a unique skill set to the CAC. Her background in acting as well as writing—”It’s all about storytelling, isn’t it?”—gave her a gift for creating characters. And one of those characters is the friendly, helpful, slightly cheeky persona you encounter on the California Arts Council’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

“Diane has been the voice of this agency,” says Director Craig Watson. She crafts the social media postings and is the final set of eyes on everything we write, from blog entries to annual reports—and, come to think of it, that’s even her voice on our automatic answering machine. But Diane says that the CAC’s voice is not really hers. It’s just her interpretation of what this agency is, at its heart: Human.

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Diane on the air

Diane was a childhood bookworm whose love of language and story moved her from reading to writing at an early age. She read aloud with such expression that the local NBC station put her on the air as a newscaster, reporting on local elementary school happenings. This led her to discover acting, which she pursued for the next quarter century or so, until she married an aerospace engineer who requested that she find a creative outlet that would keep her home in the evenings. She immediately switched gears from one form of storytelling to another. In the ensuing decade she produced eight novels and a novella, all published by Signet Books, a division of Penguin Random House, under her maiden name, Diane Farr.

Diane’s last day in the office will be April 15. She is leaving her job to resume her career, and although she claims she will miss us terribly, she admits that she looks forward to days spent drinking coffee, going for long walks, and pounding out her next novel. She will also be recording some of her books for Audible, accepting speaking engagements, attending writers’ conferences, and traveling with her husband.  We wish her great good fortune and much happiness.

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