“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.

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.

“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

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.


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.

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.

diane age 8
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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