Earlier this month, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts was recognized at the annual Tucson Meet Yourself Folklife Festival organized by the Southwest Folklife Alliance in Tucson, Arizona.  Founded in 1974 by folklorist Jim Griffith and his wife, Loma Griffith,  Tucson Meet Yourself  is an annual celebration of the living traditional arts of Southern Arizona's and Northern Mexico's diverse ethnic and folk communities. Each October, the three-day event features hundreds of artisans, home cooks, dancers, musicians and special exhibits that celebrate and honor beauty in all its diverse, informal, and everyday forms.

This year, in recognition of the overlaps and commonalities between the cultural communities of California and Arizona, the Southwest Folklife Alliance featured ACTA and artists from California at the event. We consider the Southwest Folklife Alliance a sister organization to ACTA--we both  share a vision for cultural and racial equity in the region and we believe celebrating and supporting traditional arts and folklife is one way to create a society that respects plurality.

A festival-goer creates a paper decoration for the community altar.

In fact, ACTA's founding Executive Director, Amy Kitchener, studied at the University of Arizona from 1985 to 1987 and volunteered at the Tucson Meet Yourself festival. As a graduate student in folklore at UCLA, Kitchener returned to Tucson in 1990 to conduct research at the festival, which resulted in the paper "Boiling Down the Traditions: The Reflexive Dimensions of Food at TMY" now archived at the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections.  In that paper almost thirty years ago, Kitchener recognized the value of the festival, writing " In planning a festival that would function to create community...the organizers were wise to realize the potential success of food working as a cultural mediator."  In 2011, the Southwest Folklife Alliance invited Kitchener to serve as the  festival's Visiting Folklorist to offer a written reflection and outside evaluator perspective on the festival.

We want to thank the Southwest Folklife Alliance for recognizing the cultural and historical bridges between our states, and for creating opportunities for artists and community members to celebrate the everyday expressions of culture that define our lives. We look forward to next year's festival!

Left to right: Southwest Folklife Alliance Folklorist, Dr. Maribel Alvarez, Los Angeles altarista Rosanna Esparza Ahrens, ACTA Executive Director Amy Kitchener, Los Angeles altarista Ofelia Esparza, and Southwest Folklife Alliance Managing Director Leia Maahs with two of Ofelia's grandchildren. Photo: Jennifer Jameson/ACTA.


California altaristas Ofelia Esparza (R) with her daughter Rosanna Esparza Ahrens at the TMY festival.
Ofrenda: Altar Makers Create Bridges between Life and Death

by Southwest Folklife Alliance

Two of the artists featured at the Tucson Meet Yourself festival were altaristas  Ofelia Esparza and her daughter Rosanna Esparza Ahrens,  who are currently ACTA Artist Fellows with the Building Healthy Communities initiative in Boyle Heights, CA. Together, Ofelia and Rosanna traveled to Tucson to build a community altar of remembrance at the festival. Though Ofelia and Rosanna built the altar's structure, it truly came together as an act of co-creation with participation from hundreds of festival-goers and community members who were invited to add photographs and mementos to the altar in honor of their loved ones who have passed on.

Inspired by the acts of remembrance that swept our state in the last few days for Día de los Muertos, we share this this Q & A from BorderLore in which Ofelia and Rosanna tell Kimi Eisele of the Southwest Folklife Alliance about the roots and purpose of the commemorative practice of altar-making.

What is an altar and what does it offer?

Mementos sharing space on the community altar.
Ofelia Esparza: 

In Spanish the word for altar is  ofrenda, which means offering. Altars are created as a way to honor family members and celebrate their life, to remember who they were and to keep them in the memory of the new generation. The altar is a bridge between the living and the dead, and between  generations and cultures. I make altars for people that have made an impact in my life or in the lives of others. When I create an altar I am more interested in how the person being honored was loved than how they died. Were they a mother, a sister, a brother, a daughter, a cousin, a dear friend, a comadre ? That is the crux of the honoring, that they meant something special to someone or to a community.

All photos courtesy of the Southwest Folklife Alliance.
2018 ACTA Apprenticeship pair Maggie Peters (L; Yurok) and Nelia Marshall (R; Hupa) in a forest near Humboldt Bay, gathering materials to use in the crafting of Karuk/Yurok/Hupa baby baskets. Photo: Shweta Saraswat/ACTA.

Funding Opportunities Info Session:
Humboldt County, CA

November 18, 2019

9 AM| Karuk Tribal TANF
64236 2nd Avenue,   Happy Camp, CA 96039

2 PM | Yurok Tribal TANF
2301 California 96, Weitchpec, CA 95546

Meet with ACTA Program Manager Jennifer Jameson in Humboldt County to learn about funding opportunities available to traditional artists and traditional arts organizations in California. Hear about ACTA's $3,000 Apprenticeship award, which supports close one-on-one learning between a mentoring artist and an apprentice, as well as ACTA's $5,000 Living Cultures grant, which supports traditional arts projects at non-profit organizations.

Contact: Jennifer Jameson, jjameson@actaonline.org
Frank LaPena, History of California Indians. ca. 1990. 8 hand-colored lithographs, 28 x 19 in. (each panel). Collection of the Artist © Frank LaPena. Image courtesy of the Crocker Art Museum.

When I Remember I See Red: American Indian Art and Activism in California
New Exhibition Open at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento

The exhibition  When I Remember I See Red: American Indian Art and Activism in California at the Crocker Art Museum highlights recurring themes explored by contemporary Indian Artists including identity, human impact on the environment, social justice, and the intersection of Native cultures with contemporary American culture.  The exhibition spans five decades of work by more than forty First Californians and other American Indian artists with strong ties to the state, including pioneers such as Rick Bartow, George Blake, Dalbert Castro, Frank Day, Harry Fonseca, Frank LaPena, Jean LaMarr, James Luna, Leatrice Mikkelsen, Karen Noble (Tripp), Fritz Scholder, Brian Tripp, and Franklin Tuttle, as well as emerging and mid-career artists.

When I Remember I See Red  was conceived by, and is dedicated to, Frank LaPena (Nomtipom Wintu), a renowned writer, artist, curator, poet, and professor who passed away earlier this year. Frank served on ACTA's founding Board of Directors from 2002 to 2009, where he  deeply informed ACTA's commitment to working alongside California native communities. Frank's experiences as a tradition bearer in multiple forms helped ACTA develop our understanding of the connections between  contemporary and traditional artistic expressions across the state.

Left: Frank LaPena. Photo: Sherwood Chen/ACTA.
Native American arts fair in at the Autry Museum featuring 200 artists from more than 40 Native nations.
November 9-10, 2019 | Los Angeles, CA

Culminating event of Anagaa Nathan, 2019 ACTA apprentice in Bharatanatyam dance.
November 17, 2019 | Campbell, CA

An introduction to the artistic work of three NorCal orgs.
December 2, 2019 | Menlo Park, CA

View all events and share your event with us on the ACTA website.
Since 2015, the California Arts Council has maintained a webpage dedicated to resources for Californians who have been affected by recent natural disasters in our state. This page is regularly updated as new information becomes available. Click here to see current resources.
DEADLINE: various

Grant season is in full swing at the California Arts Council! More than a dozen programs are now open with nearly $35 million projected to be awarded, the most in the agency's history. Funding is available to support community arts, arts for youth, arts and justice projects, and operational and field support. Apply now, deadlines run through the month of November. See specific programs and deadlines here.
DEADLINE: 11/8/19 - 11/15/19
NOTE: If you have been affected by evacuations and power outages as a result of the recent wildfires, you may be eligible for an extension on your CAC grant application. Please submit your request for an extension in writing to Interim Programs Officer Josy Miller at josy.miller@arts.ca.gov as soon as possible.
Applications for the latest round of Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation are now open. Bay Area nonprofits can apply for grants of $150,000 to commission new works of dance and movement-based performance from world-class artists and premiere them in local communities.  Click  to learn more.
DEADLINE: 11/13/10
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.
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