Alliance for California Traditional Arts
Headquarters Location: Fresno, CA
Mission: ACTA promotes and supports ways for cultural traditions to thrive now and into the future by providing advocacy, resources, and connections for folk and traditional artists. Folk and traditional artists are tradition bearers: people who transmit what they believe, know, do and create with others who share a common heritage. From Ohlone basketry and African-American quilt-making to cowboy poetry and Vietnamese opera, California is home to hundreds of diverse traditions.
Al Gould told us, "When I was in the 3rd grade my mother give me some beginner tools." The young boy would work leather and dream of riding in Rodeos. Today he's a master with his swivel knife, carving images that come from nature, bill board's even tombstones. They grace the covers of custom binders or a handmade custom saddle. Each carrying his intricate, free flowing patterns, "You see the intricate work here, that's what the swivel knife is for."
His talent doesn't come cheap. You'll pay between 3 to 15 thousand dollars for one his saddles. The one her proudly showed us headed to an exhibition at the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyoming.
Gould roped his share of steers and battled Broncos on the rodeo circuit in his earlier days but life brought him home to Clovis where his part-time saddle making became full time. His goal is always to craft a saddle that first fully functional and second is perfectly suited to the person who will ride it. He never duplicates a saddle. They all function the same but each is one is unique, "Each saddle is custom, each saddle is built for a particular person."
Eleven years ago he was asked to make identical saddles with no art work. They will be, he was told, a uniform for a new kind of cop. Reserve Captain Terry Beaver is the trainer of the Fresno Police Department Mounted Patrol, "What we wanted was a top quality saddle that was good for the horse and the rider and would have longevity." And they had to be identical. Gould accepted the deal and delivered on the challenge, "I had to make them appear that they're the same and they do." But each saddle is a different size to ensure it will fit as well as the officer's uniform. They were a hit with the cops and a decade later they still shine in at the horse barn or on duty. And lovingly crafted with the same skills and commitment Gould uses every time he picks up a piece of leather. Just a cowboy who continues to marry function and beauty on saddles found in western museums and rodeo arenas across America. Al Gould puts it this way, "It's no different than a person who sculpts or paints. The only difference is mine's on leather."
(Read the full article published on a local newspaper at: http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news/local&id=7394899)
Expert Reviews of Alliance for California Traditional Arts
Evidence of Impact Summary:ACTA helps preserve traditional arts by offering grants for emerging artists to apprentice with established artists, and also by facilitating technical assistance and training for local traditional artists. The Bay Area has such a huge immigrant population, and ACTA is having a big (but quiet) impact in helping those communities preserve important cultural legacies. One piece of evidence of success in the last year two ACTA grantees were selected to receive $50,000 US Artists grants. Their visibility and profile--positioning them for these prestigious awards--had much to do with their support from ACTA.
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Organization Strengths Summary:ACTA is special because while it's in the Bay Area, it is the only folk and traditional arts organization in the state and therefore has a state-wide presence. ACTA also has a great leader and staff and their finances are managed very well.
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Areas for Improvement Summary:ACTA could improve by building their staff capacity so they can expand their programs and serve a larger audience. They could also improve their marketing materials to increase their visibility among the public. They should also broaden their board of directors and funding sources.
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Expert Comments: Evidence of Impact
|They have been building the field of folk and traditional arts throughout California. They have been making the case for the value (aesthetic and community-building) of traditional arts practices. They have been helping traditional artists and traditional arts organization better succeed at producing their work, raising money, and documenting their art. One piece of evidence of success in the last year two ACTA grantees were selected to receive $50,000 US Artists grants. Their visibility and profile--positioning them for these prestigious awards--had much to do with their support from ACTA.|
|They provide critical artistic, presentation, and capacity building funds and professional development to traditional artists. They provide expertise, advocacy, and representation regarding the complexity of the diverse rich cultures and cultural and artistic practices, especially given the changing demographics of California and US. They provide community building among traditional artists, as well as support of artists in their own cultural communities. They have the ability and capacity to embrace and articulate organic organizational models and cultural practices.|
|This organization located in the Presidio has a national reputation for the services it provides to folk and traditional artists in the Bay Area and beyond.|
|They have been impacting the entire state at a grassroots level awarding the continuation of traditional arts throughout diversity communities. They celebrate the richness of California's diverse culture.|
|This organization supports a large number of valuable cultural expressions of native, immigrant, and other communities underserved and under-recognized by mainstream arts funders who lack expertise in the field of folk and traditional arts.|
|ACTA helps preserve traditional arts by offering grants for emerging artists to apprentice with established artists, and also by facilitating technical assistance and training for local traditional artists. The Bay Area has such a huge immigrant population, and ACTA is having a big (but quiet) impact in helping those communities preserve important cultural legacies.|
Expert Comments: Organization Strengths
Creative, Great Staff and Leadership
|They have a thoughtful, curious executive director and key staff members, who consistently question how to deliver services in the best possible way. They work creatively and with great cultural sensitivity. They have an excellent website that brings attention to traditional artists.|
|They have a state-wide presence and deep staff expertise and dedication.|
|ACTA began as a special initiative to serve the folk and traditional arts in California and developed into as Statewide Arts Service organization delegated by the California Arts Council to represent California in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. They have an active board and a well reputed staff to add to their successes.|
|While focused in the Bay Area, ACTA is the only statewide folk and traditional arts organization. As such, it has an important convening function and in its intermediary role it educates funders. ACTA has strong staff and board leadership and is very well managed.|
|They have strong leadership and can do a lot with few dollars.|
|Their staff resources are excellent.|
|The Program Director Sherwood Chen, who is a powerhouse of ideas and advocacy, and an asset to the entire Bay Area arts community--both traditional and contemporary artists. My sense is that the organization operates incredibly efficiently, accomplishing a great deal on a relatively small budget.|
Expert Comments: Areas for Improvement
Broaden Board of Directors and Funding Sources
|As an intermediary organization, it is challenging for the Alliance for California Traditional Arts to attract wealthy board members or individual donors. It depends heavily on grant funding and could broaden the expertise on its board.|
|They need to embrace a younger generation among their staff and Board of Directors. They need clearer positioning for the organization and for traditional arts.|
|The addition of staff would greatly assist this organization with the services they provide.|
|They need more staff capacity to build the strength of their programs and awareness in Southern California.|
Build Community and Staff Leadership
|They should consider a more distributed leadership model, allowing other staff (besides the Executive Director) to take visible leadership roles. They should move away from the old ethnographic/folk life mentality toward a hybrid focused on current practice and changing demographics. They should also continue building community.|
Increase Marketing and Visibility
|Increased visibility would be very useful for this organization. They are highly regarded among those that know them, but lack the resources to raise their profile and that of the field they represent.|
|My sense is that the organization struggles with the definition of "tradition," and the extent to which they should embrace innovation by traditional artists. I would challenge them to be as inclusive as possible. I also think that the organization deserves a great deal more visibility, and marketing could be improved.|