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.
AMY 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.