The Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) is awarding $420,000 in grant investments to seven nonprofit groups serving the San Joaquin Valley whose work is rooted in cultural traditions and values: Arte Américas Casa de la Cultura, Danzantes Unidos de California, Kings Regional Traditional Folk Arts, Little Manila Foundation, Merced Lao Family Community, Modesto Cambodian Buddhist Society, and Teatro de la Tierra. Each group will receive $60,000 over three years.
These investments and additional technical assistance are part of the Community Leadership Project (CLP). CLP is a joint partnership of the David & Lucile Packard, James Irvine and William & Flora Hewlett foundations intended to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations serving low-income and communities of color. CLP is in alignment with ACTA’s other existing social justice, youth development and immigrant empowerment work and reflects further development of ACTA’s capacity building methods.
Executive Director Amy Kitchener expressed, “We are pleased that the Packard, Irvine and Hewlett foundations recognize the impact of small nonprofit organizations in the San Joaquin Valley and honored that ACTA has been selected to enhance culturally competent planning and capital acquisition and management skills.”
Arte Américas Casa de la Cultura, Fresno, Fresno County
Arte Américas is one the largest and most significant Latino cultural centers inCalifornia. It is visited by over 25,000 people annually. For over twenty-five years, Arte has curated visual and folk arts in five gallery spaces, an annual summer concert series and collaborative programs. Performances showcase a variety of music and performance styles. Low-income youth and adults engage in arts and crafts workshops in upstairs classrooms and the addition of music classes is imminent.
Amy Kitchener: “Arte’s work and impact on this community has been phenomenal, I look forward to working with Arte to build a solid foundation for the next twenty-five years.”
Danzantes Unidos de California, San Joaquin Valley Services
Danzantes Unidos is international in mission and in scope. It serves as the cultural nexus for Mexican Folk Dance artists throughout California, the western United States and even from Mexico. It works incessantly to be a forum for collaboration, leadership training and exchange of resources and best practices. The annual Danzantes Unidos Festival, held in recent years in Fresno, is the largest celebration of Mexican Folk Dancers in the world.
Amy Kitchener: “Danzantes has successfully unified diverse groups, regions of the state and personalities to advance Mexican folk dance and serve as a safe place to be. We look forward to helping advance their work.”
Kings Cultural Center, Armona, Kings County
Kings Cultural Center expands artistic opportunities for youth and fosters and promotes traditional and multi-cultural folk music and dance. Beyond a center for traditional arts, Kings is one of the most effective youth development programs in the San Joaquin Valley. This year all of the high school seniors graduated on schedule and all are enrolled in college this fall. Ongoing programs include Ballet Folklorico Sol del Valle, Mariachi Los Reyes, Bluegrass Fiddle and Classical Guitar, among others.
Amy Kitchener: “Kings Cultural Center is a remarkable, nationality significant story of youth engagement and empowerment through traditional and multi-cultural arts. One day they’ll make a movie about this haven in Armona.”
Little Manila Foundation, Stockton, San Joaquin County
The Little Manila Historic Site was the capital and crossroads of Filipina/o America through much of the 20th century. Much was destroyed due to urban redevelopment in the 1960s and again in the 1990s. The Little Manila Foundation seeks to preserve, disseminate and sustain the rich Filipina/o American legacy in Stockton. It promotes awareness and action at the local, state, national and international levels. Its goal is to save Little Manila’s remaining buildings and the legacy of its many past residents.
Amy Kitchener: “The vibrant energy and dedication of the children and grandchildren of manong (first-generation Filipino immigrants) to save spaces and stories and pass them on to others brings tears to my eyes. We look forward to helping propel their stories into the future.”
Merced Lao Family Community, Merced, Merced County
Merced Lao Family Community ensures self-sufficiency for Lao/Hmong refugees. As one of the most important Southeast Asian American social service centers in the United States, it eases the transition of refugee immigration by teaching and supporting traditional dances, music, language, cultural knowledge and stories. Each year, 20,000 people attend Merced Hmong New Year, featuring traditional dance and singing, cultural sports and cultural arts exhibitions.
Amy Kitchener: “The Hmong/Lao people in Merced are known as some of the most civically engaged and empowered in the country. There is much they can teach us as we work together to ensure future sustainability.”
Modesto Cambodian Buddhist Society, Modesto, Stanislaus County
The Modesto Cambodian Buddhist Society is a beacon for the Khmer community. It preserves the cultural and spiritual heritage of the Cambodian people and supports sustainable progress. When completed, the temple grounds will be one of the most beautiful and engaging in the country. It inspires youth to achieve academic success rooted in values-based Khmer traditions and encourages youth and adults to embody cultural traditions through dance. Seeking to ensure equality and civic engagement, it also contributes to active voter registration.
Amy Kitchener: “Modesto Cambodian’s multi-generational leadership team is a national model for engagement of people from all ages of a community, each contributing their skills to the common good. I can’t wait to see them in action.”
Teatro de la Tierra, Fresno, Fresno County
Teatro de la Tierra tells the stories of the Chicano, Mexican and Latino experience through music and theatre, reflecting a commitment to cultural heritage and to social justice. Led by National Heritage Fellow (2007) Agustin Lira. Long-term theatre and music projects gather stories from low-income local residents and communicate concerns and solutions about pervasive concerns that impact us all, ranging from obesity to overall community health.
Amy Kitchener: “Teatro de la Tierra and National Heritage Fellow Agustin Lira unabashedly speak truth through story and song. CLP is an opportunity to assure a financial foundation for these important national treasures.”