JohnSeto

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.
PaloAltoArtCenter_1

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.

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