By Amy Kitchener, Executive Director
June 20, 2013

This month, ACTA dedicates our entire issue of The New Moon to Teen Learning in the Traditional Arts.  In over fifteen years in our role as a funding intermediary and advocate for the diverse traditions and cultural communities of our state, we have seen intense commitment of young people engaged in their art forms, inspired by rigorous training approaches by master teachers in backyards, kitchens, home studios, and other sites of community learning.  Here, we aim to highlight some of the diverse experiences and points of view to illuminate the ways in which teens work to carry traditions into the future.

ACTA looks to the over 200 master and apprentice pairs and the over 360 organizations who have received funding through our programs—an abundance of life experiences, many of which have involved teen learning in traditional arts.  We see examples of teens creating exquisite beauty as they interpret what it means to piece together a patchwork quilt, to drum in unison, or to prepare and perform a Kathak dance solo.  We bear witness to testimonals by teens and those who know them about the ways in which learning a traditional art impacts their self-esteem, sense of belonging, and identity formation—all factors which influence a youth’s pathway to higher education and, further, towards collective well-being.

In this first thematic edition of The New Moon, you will hear from Ty’ithreeha Allen (Karuk/Yurok) and her mother Paula “Pimm” Allen (Karuk/Yoruk), about their experience in preparing for Ty’s Ihuk coming of age ceremony, and the layers of personal and communal meanings that ripple outwards.  Apprenticeship Program Manager Russell Rodriguez interviews two teen apprentices, Gorlia Xiong and Fabian Narez, capturing their experiences from two different cultural communities.  Legendary West African (Liberian) dance master Naomi Diouf has taught generations of teens in Oakland, and shares her experiences with Living Cultures Grants Program Manager Lily Kharrazi.

We are especially grateful to the Surdna Foundation which has provided generous support of ACTA’s teen-based regranting and apprenticeships over the past three years, and has sparked ACTA’s interest to delve deeper into the many facets of engaged teen learning in the traditional arts and our inquiries into the ways in which teens experiences in traditional arts differ from those in the Western canon.