Guinean dance master Youssouf Koumbassa leads a dance class online during the Inland Empire’s Ultimate Doundounba Festival of 2020, hosted by the Umoja Ensemble of the Inland Empire.
A Circle of Reciprocity:
Give to the Traditional Arts Today
“A tree without roots will never bear fruit. Supporting ACTA is like supplying water to our roots. It is a little sip of livelihood to those brave traditional artists that will not compromise their culture.”

- Makeda Kumasi, Founder and Artistic Director of the Umoja Ensemble of the Inland Empire (2020 ACTA Living Cultures Grantee)
The traditional arts need your support now more than ever. The difficult reality is that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a deep and lasting impact on both artist communities and communities of color—California’s traditional artists have been doubly hit by the social and economic effects of COVID-19.

This year, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) has dedicated itself to helping our community of traditional artists across the state remain resilient through the pandemic. We have been invigorated by the creative and fearless leadership of California artists and culture bearers who have reminded us time and time again that the traditional arts have the power to heal communities, to remind us who we are, and to imagine new futures in the darkest of times.

Your donation to ACTA brings you into our circle of reciprocity. All of the money that ACTA raises goes directly to supporting the work of traditional artists in California communities. With your help, we can continue to water the roots of our traditional arts networks, ensuring that the fruit of living cultural heritage continues to thrive for generations to come.
In the words of Makeda Kumasi of the Umoja Ensemble of the Inland Empire, a 2020 Living Cultures grantee:

“ACTA has been a beacon of light in the dark for a multitude of traditional artists. The arts are already a difficult profession to pursue. A traditional artist and culture bearer understands the sacrifices involved with staying true to the elder and ancestral wisdom which is the foundation of all neo-works. It is absolutely essential that we maintain our foundations. Folks should support ACTA because ACTA is that system of irrigation that keeps Californian traditional arts ALIVE! Asante Sana!”
Will you make a gift in support of California's thriving cultural communities? Any amount, whether it be a one-time gift or a monthly donation, will help us meet our goal of $7,500 before the end of the year. All donations are tax-deductible!
From the entire ACTA family, thank you for your interest in what we do.
Contact: Amy Kitchener, Executive Director
Resilience in Motion: Moving the Traditional Arts Online
Learn more about how the Umoja Ensemble of the Inland Empire applied their ACTA funding to help move their annual Doundounba Festival online in the summer of 2020! Click to read to the full Q+A with Founder and Artistic Director Makeda Kumasi.

Image: Makeda Kumasi of the Umoja Ensemble.
2019 ACTA mentor artist Pierr Padilla performs Marinera Limeña, an Afro-Peruvian courtship dance, with his apprentice and wife Carmen Román in their apartment in Oakland for ACTA's Shelter Together online series. Watch the full video here.
ACTA’s Year in Review:
Responding to COVID-19

Beginning in March 2020, ACTA began rapid adaptation of our programs and services to directly address the effects of COVID-19 on the traditional arts community of California. This included pivoting our existing programs to be immediately relevant to the new challenges facing our constituents, as well as creating new programs to reflect the fundamentally changed field of traditional arts under COVID-19:

Traditional Arts at Home: Our new online program Shelter Together launched in March 2020 and has so far featured more than 30 traditional artists from across the state sharing their practice from home on ACTA’s social media channels.

Financial Aid Roundtables: We reshaped our Traditional Arts Roundtable Series (TARS) events to focus on relief and recovery funding available to the traditional arts community through bilingual online events that put artists in touch with experts on topics such as navigating unemployment and applying for CARES funding.

Recovery and Relief Funding: ACTA administered the Hardly Strictly Music Relief Fund: Bay Area, making 330 grants of $2,000 to roots musicians based in six Bay Area counties. This program was made possible by Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, in partnership with the Center for Cultural Innovation. We’ve also been maintaining an up-to-date list of recovery opportunities for traditional artists on our COVID-19 resource page.

Sounds of California: Our 2020 Sounds of California program is in full swing, this year centered on the community of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles. Community documentarians have been conducting fieldwork in their neighborhoods, focusing on themes of anti-displacement, belonging, and local resilience in the face of COVID-19, while local musicians have produced ten very moving original songs about Boyle Heights’ history and meaning, commissioned by ACTA. Learn more in this story by ACTA Program Manager Betty Marín for the Smithsonian’s Folklife magazine, or in this radio piece featuring ACTA Program Manager Quetzal Flores for the California Report Magazine.
Image: Still from lyric video for Nobuko Miyamoto's Sounds of California song "Boyle Heights: A Place of Bridges."
A Gift for You!
Check out all the Sounds of California: Boyle Heights original songs on ACTA's YouTube page. Featuring work by Raul Pacheco, La Marisoul, Nobuko Miyamoto, and several other established and emerging musicians from LA!

"It made me feel like myself again."
Laotian master artist and registered nurse Sherina Han-Khampraseuth on her traditional practice in the time of COVID-19

Sherina Han-Khampraseuth of Fresno, is a first-generation Laotian-American and a master performer in Laotian lanard (or lanat), a suspended wooden xylophone used in Lao traditional music. Sherina is also a registered nurse who has been serving COVID-19 patients off and on at the Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno since the start of the pandemic. She told us how at the beginning of the pandemic “it was really hard—nurses didn’t have enough PPE. Everything was unknown.”

Despite the difficult circumstances, Sherina found reprieve in to continuing to work with her young 2020 ACTA apprentice Jacob Norasene Van, who is learning how to play new songs on the lanard by ear over FaceTime.

As Sherina told ACTA, “At the beginning of the pandemic, it was emotionally hard, working with COVID patients at work, so we took a break from lessons since we weren’t sure what we were going to do about it, with the stress of it. It was hard because no one wanted to be around me, and I’m such a social person! It took a while to get out of that [headspace].”
Once Sherina and Jacob began meeting regularly over FaceTime in her off time, “it felt like we were getting back to normal, and we started doing lessons more gradually. It feels nice to teach again—for a while all I was doing was working and dealing with the fear of contracting COVID. It made me feel like myself again. It felt normal again, for me. And it was nice to see Jacob improving, and getting better over time.”

We are grateful for Sherina's critical work caring for COVID-19 patients, and her continued commitment to the traditional arts of Laos through her work as a mentor artist in our Apprenticeship Program!

Coming Up:
Public Showcase of 2020 ACTA Apprentice Jacob Norasene Van

Our youngest ACTA apprentice this year, Jacob Norasene Van of Fresno, will be sharing what he has learned under mentor artist in Laotian lanard, Sherina Han-Khampraseuth. The pair have continued their apprenticeship online, and we are very proud to see Jacob offering a livestream performance this month!

December 20, 2020
Facebook Live (here)

Top image: Sherina and Jacob together in 2019. Photo by Malaiky Norasene.
Bottom image: Jacob practices in his home in Fresno. Image courtesy of Sherina Han.
ACTA's Living Cultures Grant Program is open! Apply by Dec. 8!

The Program seeks to sustain and strengthen traditional arts with project-based grants of $5,000 to California nonprofits, tribal entities, and other organizations who work with fiscal sponsors.

The Living Cultures Grant Program supports cultural projects involving any genre of traditional art, including but not limited to dance, music, foodways, material arts, and oral traditions. Projects must take place between March 1, 2021 and February 28, 2022.

Click here to apply in English or Spanish.

To learn more about eligibility or read about our funders, please visit our website.

DEADLINE: December 8, 2020

Photo: A 2008 Living Cultures grant supported the preparation, practice, and implementation of the Cloverdale Rancheria of Pomo Indians' traditional songs and dances by their then newly-formed dance group. Photo: L. Kharrazi/ACTA.
Want to learn how you can support the work of ACTA?
The Alliance for California Traditional Arts is the California Arts Council's official partner in serving the state's folk and traditional arts field.