“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



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.

#MyCreativeCA Video: Destiny Arts

We’ve created a series of short-form, documentary videos that celebrate creative expression in California. The series of videos follow art programming across California, from rural towns to some of the state’s largest cities, which are making positive impacts in communities.

The first video in our series comes from the Bay Area. Oakland-based dance organization, Destiny Arts first received California Arts Council grant in 1989. They currently receive support through our Artists in Schools and JUMP StArts programs.

#MyCreativeCA #CAarts40 http://www.arts.ca.gov

Video Series: My Creative CA

We recently traveled across California to film some of the inspiring people making an impact in their communities through art and creative expression. Over the next couple of months, we’ll be sharing a new video here each week. Here’s a sneak peek that was previewed at our 40th anniversary celebration at the historic Crest Theatre in Sacramento on Wednesday, January 27, 2016.

As our host Annette Bening stated on stage at the Crest Theatre, “From its beginnings in 1976 to today the Arts Council has demonstrated why government support of the arts is so important. Public support is what brings the arts, with all their power to heal and inspire, to rural communities, towns large and small, blighted neighborhoods, struggling schools, prisons and hospitals, and everywhere the arts can make a difference – from Skid Row to symphony hall. The arts are an invaluable policy asset and prosperity generator for California. The creativity of our state sets us apart and gives California a special place in people’s imaginations.”

From the role of art in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) to preserving traditional and folk arts, this video shows the wide reach of California Arts Council’s grantees and partnerships to advance arts in California for everyone.

Featured California nonprofits include:

The videos were produced by Los Angeles-based, For Example Media.

‪#‎MyCreativeCA‬ ‪#‎CAarts40‬