Year-End Highlights

As California’s state arts agency, we have a passion, vision, and affection for the places and people of California – for our artists, our communities, our many cultures – and we take pride in working hard to serve every part of the Golden State.

2016 was a difficult year for many – tragedy, violence, natural disasters, and uncertainty impacted communities across our state. But in many ways, this was also a year full of hope, light, and growth for the arts in California… made possible by the artists, community leaders, local citizens, and elected officials who took action to support the California Arts Council (CAC), and who recognize the importance of the arts and creativity for the success, well-being, and heart of our state.

Here are just a few milestones from 2016:

Celebrating 40 Years

Our agency was established by Governor Brown and came into being on January 1, 1976. Governor Brown created the CAC on the basis that the arts are central to the lives of Californians. Over the past forty years, we’ve awarded more than 30,000 grants with a total investment of $368 million in our state’s artists and communities. Read more >>

Record Number of Grants Awarded

In 2016, we awarded $8.7 million in grants to California nonprofit organizations under ten unique, competitive grant programs. 712 grants were awarded for programs supporting arts education; underserved communities; veterans and their families; local economic development; arts and community development; creative placemaking; and arts service organizations. Read more >>

State Budget Increase

The 2016-17 state budget includes a $6.8 million one-time increase for our grant programs benefiting diverse communities across California. In 2017, we will invest $15 million in communities across California by awarding up to 1,000 grants through 14 unique grant programs. Read more >>

New Data on California’s Creative Economy

For three years, we have commissioned the expansion of an LA regional creative economy report to measure the entire state’s creative sectors. This year’s report revealed a sector economic output of $374.5 billion accounting for roughly 1 in 10 jobs. Read more >>

Arts in Corrections Program Expansion

As part of the state’s multi-tiered investment in public safety, our Arts in Corrections program provides critical rehabilitative arts services to California’s incarcerated population and is made possible by an interagency partnership with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). In 2017, the program will expand to reach all  CDCR adult institutions. Read more >>

State-Certified Cultural Districts

We’re currently completing an extensive public planning process for the future California Cultural Districts program. The program, launching in 2017, will assist Californians in leveraging the state’s considerable assets in the areas of culture, creativity, and diversity. It will support communities where a high concentration of cultural resources and activities are central to local identity, and serve as a tool for preservation in order to fortify and protect local socio-economic diversity, cultural diversity, and ethnic diversity. Read more >>

Featured Grantee Photo: Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir

“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.

“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.

“40 Stories” Spotlight: Khmer Arts Academy

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.


 

Khmer Arts Academy, Long Beach

By Reaksmey (Mea) Lath, Instructor/Performer at Khmer Arts Academy

Year of First CAC Grant: 2002

A Stamp of Approval

I was among the original students of Cambodian classical dance at the Khmer Arts Academy when it was established in 2002. The California Arts Council (CAC) was among the first funders of the organization, which provides free dance workshops in the Cambodian refugee community of Long Beach, the largest community of its kind outside of Southeast Asia. Through the CAC’s then Multi-Cultural Entry Grant program, the Academy was able to provide programming and leverage those funds as matches for additional support. Funding for the traditional arts is not always easy to come by, especially in a small and impoverished immigrant community without the resources to support its own culture. A stamp of approval through a CAC grant said this was an endeavor of value. Over time, many foundations came to recognize the same thing. The organization is now the most accomplished Cambodian arts organization in the country.

Passing On an Ancient Tradition

As a result of California Arts Council support for Khmer Arts Academy, I have had the opportunity, over the past 13 years, to advance from student to teacher, passing on a tradition that is more than a thousand years old and helping to offer younger members of my challenged community opportunities to develop a sense of excellence. Through CAC support for residency programs, I’ve come to know top-notch performing artists from different traditions and fields, who have helped me gain a better understanding of the possibilities for how the body can move through time and space as well as how different artistic traditions evolve. Without Khmer Arts Academy, I simply would not have had access to this exquisite cultural tradition of my parents and their ancestors.

Enriching the Community

Long Beach is home to perhaps 50,000 Cambodians. The Cambodia Town Cultural District is a place where you’ll find markets, tailors, pharmacies, restaurants and auto body shops catering to Cambodians. Khmer Arts Academy is its center for dance. The organization has changed the way the dance is practiced, performed and understood in the community and beyond.

Photographed by The Future Collective for the LA County Arts Commission
Khmer Arts Academy Photographed by The Future Collective for the LA County Arts Commission

 

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REAKSMEY (MEA) LATH has studied classical dance with Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, Charya Burt, Sothavy Khut and Sophanmay Nong as well as with Khmer Arts Ensemble in Cambodia. With Khmer Arts Academy, she has performed throughout California. Mea is a recent graduate of San Diego State University.

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