ACTA Board President Dan Sheehy (L) and Russell Rodríguez are long time friends who share a love of Mariachi musicianship and scholarship. Pictured co-hosting a Sounds of California program at the 2015 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. Photo: Lily Kharrazi/ACTA.

"You Can't Just Go and Ask Questions; You've Got to Show Them Who You Are": A Farewell Interview with ACTA's Russell Rodríguez
With this issue, we say farewell to programs manager, Russell Rodríguez, who will be joining the faculty at the University of California, Santa Cruz as an assistant professor in the Music Department. He will provide performance courses with an emphasis on Mexican and Chicano music and dance, as well as developing his research of cultural production within Latina/o communities in the United States.  Russell's breadth of knowledge, talent, humor, and disarming lack of pretension are among the many things that we will miss as a staff but we are thrilled that he will be close by to continue to collaborate with ACTA, other artists, community members, and colleagues.  

Below, read an excerpt from our interview with Russell upon his departure:

How would you say that being a musician has informed your work? 
When I would visit musicians, what I learned from doing interviews and ethnographic work is: You can't just go and ask questions; You've got to show them who you are. And being a musician and sharing a story about my experience was always a way into a deeper discussion, and I think we end up finding a mutual affinity-an affirmation-but it also offers me a position from which I can understand: "Okay, I know what you're talking about." Especially for those that are immigrants to the United States--Indian-American, Asian-American, and so on. What has been really enlightening is that at ACTA, you see such wide range of cultural experience. There's such a wide range, with so many degrees. Things that in your mind you know it, you imagine it, but with ACTA, you actually  see it. 

When you look back on your time at ACTA, is there a certain memory or experience that sticks with you?

That's difficult because the majority of the artists we work with are amazing. They're so educational and affirming of the work we do, and the work they do-the artists themselves, and the practitioners.

My very first visit was with Jennifer Bates and Jeri Scambler at a CIBA (California Indian Basketweavers Association) Conference that took place in Ione, California. It was amazing; I had no idea, and the power of it was incredible. At that time, I was barely getting a sense of what's going on as a contract worker for ACTA, but somehow, I was placed on a panel! The panel was California Stories: Through Indian Eyes, I basically talked about the opportunity of attaining support to move this type of cultural work making a bit more impactful. There were other intense panels such as one on cultural and ecological issues like water rights and land rights, where transformation was going to occur, and how Native California Indians were going to fight to get back what this generation lost, like hunting grounds where they used to collect materials for basket weaving. These were lands that were previously open and now people buy them and make them private; or the Forest Service decides to close certain areas off. That was memorable.

NEW: Building Healthy Communities Report on Health through Cultural Arts in Boyle Heights
A collaboration between ACTA and The California Endowment's Building Healthy Communities Initiative, Building Healthy Communities: Approaching Community Health Through Heritage and Culture in Boyle Heights is one in a series of papers exploring connections between traditional arts and cultural practices and community well-being, as well as social change processes.
Written by Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson, Citlalli Chávez, this report is intended for anyone interested in better understanding how heritage-based arts practices can contribute to community empowerment, comprehensive neighborhood revitalization and better health outcomes, ACTA's 32-page case study examines the Engaging Cultural Assets Pilot Project from 2011 through the fall of 2015 in Boyle Heights, a vibrant neighborhood in Los Angeles, full of challenges, assets and opportunities.

Now Hiring for Three Positions

With the expansion of our Arts in Corrections program, and with departures of our beloved colleagues Russell Rodríguez, and next month, Marisa Martinez, ACTA is now hiring for three different positions:
  • Arts in Corrections Program Coordinator, Full-Time (Los Angeles)
  • Arts in Corrections Program Manager, Full-Time (Fresno)
  • Digital Media Specialist, Part-Time (Los Angeles)

To learn more about each position, please see the full descriptions and instructions on how to apply on our website. All positions are open until filled. 

L.A. Uprising: 25 Years Later
,                     A Traditional Arts Roundtable

On June 20th, a Traditional Arts Roundtable with ACTA and the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), L.A. Uprising: 25 Years Later (1992-2017) gathered members of the Koreatown and South L.A. communities to examine cross-cultural strategies utilizing traditional art forms to heal, connect, and build bridges across cultures and generations toward wellness and liberation.

The roundtable included Sue Hee Ko, Director of Mrs. Ko's Traditional Korean Dance Studio and Najite Agindotan and family, who shared insight on the transformative effects of their collaborations that engaged the Korean-American pansori drum and dance community and the West African drum and dance of South LA's African-American community. 

The Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF)'s Emerging Leaders of Color Professional Development Program is a high-level leadership seminar for racially or ethnically diverse leaders working in the arts in the western United States. WESTAF is currently seeking participants for this all-expenses-paid, 6th annual convening to be held November 13-15, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. Find more info on how to apply here. Applications must be received by THURSDAY, AUGUST 31, 2017. 

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation has issued an open call for submissions for its 7th year of National Artist Fellowships. The fellowship awards up to $20,000 to American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian artists who demonstrate exemplary skill and exceptional quality of work in any one of the following five categories: Traditional Arts, Music, Visual Arts, Artistic Innovation and Literature. Find out more here.

The Alliance for California Traditional Arts is the California Arts Council's official partner in serving the state's folk & traditional arts field.
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