NOTE: ACTA staff members are currently working from home in adherence with local stay-at-home policies. Email remains a reliable way to reach us.


Amy Kitchener
Co-Founder + Executive Director

Amy 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. She served on the board of the national Grantmakers in the Arts from 2014 – 2020, and in 2017 was appointed by the US Congress as a Trustee of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. By 2019, she was elected as Chair of the American Folklife Center. Amy and husband Hugo Morales are the proud parents of twin boys who dance and sing with regularity. Photo by Craig Kohlruss.

CONTACT: Fresno Central Office | akitch@actaonline.org | (559) 237-9813 and (559) 696-2815

 

Program Staff

Lily Kharrazi
Director of Special Initiatives

Lily began working with ACTA in 2005 as the Living Cultures Grants Program manager.  In her 14 years with the organization she has contributed to the development of traditional arts roundtable series (TARS), Community Leadership Program, provided technical assistance, advocacy locally and nationally and has served on many review panels for arts funding.  In her new capacity as Special Projects Manager, she will continue to bring her training in dance and anthropology (UCLA, Dance Ethnology) and many years of working with community based arts practice.

CONTACT: San Francisco Field Office | lilyk@actaonline.org | (415) 346-5200

 

Melody Takata
Program Manager

Melody is a multi-faceted artist trained in Japanese classical dance, taiko, and shamisen, a Japanese string instrument. In addition to training with master artists in these forms, Melody has also pursued interdisciplinary work collaborating with jazz artists, poets, contemporary dance, and film for the last 20 years. Melody has been part of the ACTA family for many years, since taking part in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program in 2003 under the mentorship of shamisen master artist Hideko Nakajima (1935 – 2019). Melody joined ACTA’s San Francisco office in 2021 to manage our new Sankofa Fund grant program.

CONTACT: San Francisco Field Office | melody@actaonline.org

 

Jennifer Joy Jameson
Program Manager + Media Director

Jennifer is a Pasadena-based cultural worker and public folklorist committed to supporting artists and communities through an anti-racist practice. Jenn came to ACTA from the Mississippi Arts Commission where she served as the Folk and Traditional Arts Director since 2014, administering traditional arts grants, providing consultation to artists and organizations, revived and managed the digital publication Mississippi Folklife, and led fieldwork projects related to a wide range of cultural arts practices. Jennifer also worked in digital media for SPACES Archives, a non-profit archive dedicated to documenting and advocating for the preservation of international art environments. With an M.A. in public sector folk studies from Western Kentucky University and a B.A. in folklore and ethnomusicology from Indiana University, Jenn has worked with museums, archives, festivals, and cultural organizations on the federal, state, and local level, including positions or residencies at the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Traditional Arts Indiana, the Kentucky Folklife Program, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Highlander Center for Research and Education, and Epicenter. Jenn was raised in the coastal city of Encinitas in San Diego County. She joined ACTA in March 2017, where she directs ACTA’s media efforts, manages the Apprenticeship Program, co-leads the Traditional Arts Roundtable Series in Los Angeles, coordinates technical assistance offerings, and supports the statewide Sounds of California project.

CONTACT: Los Angeles Field Office | jjameson@actaonline.org | (760) 805-8002

 

Shweta Saraswat, Ph.D.
Media and Development Manager

Shweta is a media producer and writer born and raised in Los Angeles. She recently graduated with a Ph.D. in Culture and Performance from the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at UCLA where her research looked at the relationship between diasporic identity and cultural production in the US and the UK. Before that, she completed an M.A. in Journalism at USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism where she specialized in short form documentary. Shweta has written and produced for The Atlantic, On Being, The Global Post, and KNBC, exploring the social, cultural, and political impact of the arts in communities ranging from Belfast to Long Beach. Shweta most recently worked with the J. Paul Getty Museum, where she produced interpretive digital content for exhibitions and education initiatives. She is also a longtime practitioner of Kathak, a classical dance from north India, having studied under Guru Rachana Upadhyay in the San Fernando Valley for two decades. Shweta produces content for ACTA’s digital channels, works across ACTA programs as a ethnographic researcher, and manages ACTA’s development efforts. She joined ACTA in July 2018.

CONTACT: Los Angeles Field Office | ssaraswat@actaonline.org | (213) 346-3285 or (818) 885-0555

 

Kenya Curry
Arts in Corrections Program Manager

Kenya has over ten years of experience in administrative work. In 2014, she graduated from California State University, Fresno, with a degree in Criminology and a legal studies certificate. She began at ACTA as the Arts in Corrections (AIC) program coordinator for ACTA’s contracts, coordinating the day-to-day program administration including assisting the artists with their supplies, processing invoices, data entry and other daily AIC operations. In 2021 Kenya became the AIC Program Manager. Kenya joined ACTA in November 2010.

CONTACT: Fresno Office | kenya@actaonline.org | (559) 237-9812 or (559) 492-9710

 

Quetzal Flores
Program Manager

Quetzal has extensive experience as a community organizer, cultural worker, and accomplished artist. As the son of labor union organizers, Flores inherited an undying accountability to community struggles. From land struggles with South Central farmers, immigration reform, supermarket workers union strike, and the indigenous Zapatista struggle, to the everyday community struggles in East Los Angeles, he has been active with music in hand. Since 1993, has been the musical director for the Grammy-award-winning East Los Angeles-based rock group Quetzal, whose fifth album, Imaginaries, was released by Smithsonian Folkways in 2012. Since 2002, Quetzal has been a central figure in Fandango Sin Fronteras, a transnational dialogue between Chicana/o musicians and artists from California and Mexicano musicians and dancers from Veracruz, Mexico. Flores has served as an instructor for the Migrant Education Program in Boyle Heights and the Program Coordinator for the American Music Partnership of Seattle in 2008. He speaks fluent Spanish. Flores joined ACTA in May 2012, and is currently working as a part-time Program Manager with the Building Healthy Communities program in Boyle Heights.

CONTACT: Los Angeles Field Office | quetzal@actaonline.org | (213) 346-3285 or (626) 429-4261

 

Betty Marín
Program Manager

Betty is a cultural worker from Wilmington, CA. Her work centers on using popular education and language justice to create spaces that encourage learning, dialogue, and solidarity between different communities. She organizes against displacement and gentrification with the LA Tenants Union, and promotes language justice with Antena LA in movement and other spaces across Los Angeles. She is based in the LA office, where she manages ACTA’s cultural treasure mapping work including with the Promise Zone Arts project, supports artist fellows in the campaign work of our Boyle Heights Building Healthy Communities program, and supports the coordination of the Traditional Arts Roundtable Series. Betty joined ACTA in July 2018.

CONTACT: Los Angeles Field Office | bmarin@actaonline.org | (213) 346-3285 or (424) 215-1522

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