Through the New California Arts Fund (NCAF), the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) will expand access to the state’s vibrant communities of traditional artists to every Californian, enabling more low-income and diverse populations to explore art and identity.
For nearly twenty years, ACTA has supported California folk and traditional artists of many disciplines, from cowboy poetry and African American quilting to Hmong qeej musical performance and Cahuilla bird song and dance. Over the past several years, ACTA has begun transitioning from primarily an arts service and regranting organization to a hybrid organization that presents community-based arts engagement activities, conducts community engaged research, curates, and develops presenting partnerships.
The next important step in their trajectory is to help more Californians connect, participate, and engage with the cultural resources offered by the state’s traditional artists. They will create more visibility and engagement by both scaling up platforms for virtual engagement as well as creating more opportunities for people to have live, in-person transformational experiences. They are also building organizational capacity to sustain this work by engaging individual donors and strengthening their organization’s technical infrastructure.
ACTA has long served the entire state’s vast collection of working traditional artists: from Red Bluff to the border of Mexico, including many communities & regions that receive no other arts funding. In order to support local artists, they are a distributed organization with staff living throughout California, embedded in their local communities. But in this transition to scale their impact, ACTA’s audience has grown from several thousand artists and partners to tens of millions of Californians, particularly those in low income, immigration rich, and racially diverse communities.
Traditional artists will always be the face of ACTA, now their task is to also reach the educators, families, and partner cultural institutions who are interested in the rich work of these artists and have access to the great diversity of California.
Through location-specific events, virtual engagement, and a more robust infrastructure, ACTA plans to transform not just who they’re reaching, but how they’re working.
ACTA partnered with the Smithsonian and Radio Bilingüe for Sounds of California at the 2016 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC. At a time when public discussion around immigration is clamorous, one in four immigrants in the U.S. lives in California. At the 2016 Folklife Festival, Sounds of California presented a series of evening concerts as well as daytime performances and activities, offering a glimpse into how musical culture mirrors the movements reshaping the state and the nation today. Featuring artists who contribute to the soundscapes of California, demonstrating the social power of music and cultural heritage, Sounds of California was also previously in residence at the Oakland Museum of California and distributed via Radio Bilingüe.
Deep transformation often requires renewed investment in internal processes, people, and tools. ACTA has hired a new staff member to focus on building an individual donor program and diversify funding from institutional donors. They will be addressing technology and data systems throughout the organization, considering opportunities to strengthen their identity and brand, and working to incorporate evaluation techniques into everyday processes.
In order to sustain this transformation and ensure they can continue to serve traditional artists for decades to come, ACTA is focused on a series of learning efforts around:
Data collection and management.
Donor engagement strategies for board and staff.
Scaling online communications with niche audiences.