On August 24, 2011, ACTA’s staff and board hosted an afternoon gathering and networking opportunity for its grantees who reside in the wider Los Angeles area. The occasion coincided with ACTA’s bi-annual board meeting, which travels each year to different parts of the state in an effort to learn first hand about the specific needs of each region. Held at The California Endowment Center for Healthy Communities in downtown Los Angeles, approximately 40 people attended. The room was filled with traditional artists, cultural advocates, administrators, and representatives of many of the diverse cultural traditions that ACTA supports throughout California through its three core funding programs.
The meeting opened with the blessings and songs by attendees Rudy Ortega and Mark Villasenor of the Fernandeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians who appropriately reminded us of the first people’s presence in the state. As participants introduced themselves and their organizations, many stories of success and challenges were shared. Lily Kharrazi, ACTA staff member, characterized the diversity and value of the group in her introduction by reflecting, “You collectively represent hundreds of years of practical experience. Many of you speak more than one language each day, and the majority of you work across borders, both political and spiritual.”
A response to an open call to share the diverse arts within the group brought forth a highlight of the gathering, a special performance by artists Kahlil Cummings and Kara Mack Cummings. The two are students and teachers of West African dance and music, focusing particularly on the forms from Guinea. Kara bridged the African diaspora by singing a Negro spiritual, a cappella style. With her eyes closed, she filled the room with her sonorous voice. Following this, Kahlil, a percussionist of many African instruments, shared a solo highlighting the complexities of the djembe. Kara joined him in dance to finish the afternoon with a sense of energy.
Providing a space for simply getting to meet one another is one primary goal of ACTA’s gatherings and outreach efforts. Acknowledging that artists often feel isolated in their work, the opportunity to network and share information is a step towards bridging this gap. ACTA’s staff and board were pleased to connect with artists and organizations in the Southern California region as we anticipate the opening of an ACTA field office in downtown Los Angeles in 2012. The goal to have a dedicated staff member serve the greater LA area will help ACTA work deeper into the entire Southern California region of the state to provide resources to folk and traditional artists.