Ends on

Rene Fisher Mims and others perform at the 2018 of Djanjoba Festival of Los Angeles. Photo: S. Narang/ACTA 

Rene Fisher Mims and others perform at the 2018 of Djanjoba Festival of Los Angeles. Photo: S. Narang/ACTA


The Living Cultures grant from the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) is designed to maximize the impact of this grant on small budget organizations. We encourage you to call ACTA to introduce yourself and your proposal ideas to our staff. This way we can assist you towards a productive application process, learn more about you, your cultural community, and your needs. Spanish language assistance is also available and we truly welcome first-time applicants.

*NEW this year*

For the 2021-2022 Living Cultures grant cycle, all proposed projects must take into consideration COVID-19 and the post-pandemic restrictions that will most likely be in place well into 2021 and 2022. For example, these may include: social distancing measures and/or the limits on medium to large in-person gatherings as determined by your County's Health Department.

The Living Cultures grant program seeks to sustain and strengthen the folk and traditional arts in the state of California. We recognize that these practices play a vital role in the life a cultural community as a living link to a healthy future. Traditional arts and the places in which they are shared provide safe, and oftentimes sacred, spaces in which community members can participate and connect to a cultural group. Beyond mere entertainment, these are spaces and activities of inclusion where all people can publicly participate as "cultural citizens" (whether documented or undocumented). In these spaces, people experience a sense of belonging, community continuity, empowerment and action, affirming possible human, social, and political developments into the future. We recognize that this work takes many shapes and forms for the diverse practices in California. 

What We Fund

Cultural continuity of traditional arts practices:

  • Workshops and gatherings (for example, events that bring together artists, cultural specialists or community leaders to share skills and information or to engage in discussion and problem solving)
  • Conservation, creation, or acquisition of important traditional arts items
  • Intergenerational classes or other educational programs within a community (after-school youth programs, dance ensemble classes or practices, summer programs, etc.)
  • Other kinds of mentorships with “culture bearers,” honoraria, travel costs within CA., etc. (Please note that intensive, one-on-one artistic mentorships should apply to ACTA's Apprenticeship Program instead.) 
  • Endangered language conservation and revitalization projects when carried out within the context of traditional art forms
  • Other types of activities and projects that lead to cultural continuity of traditional arts practices

Sustaining future traditional arts practices with needed purchases, services, or acquiring new skills:

  • Equipment and materials purchases (instruments, media equipment, costumes or regalia, etc.)
  • Documentation of traditional arts,  skills,  ceremony, beliefs, or performances
  • An investment to result in future revenues (fee for services for marketing consultation, website development, financial planning, etc.)
  • Learning new skills by supporting mentorships with advisors or cultural specialists
  • Other types of activities and projects that lead to long-term sustainability of traditional arts practices

Engaging and strengthening our own communities as well as engaging with others

  • Public presentations, such as community-based concerts, festivals, and exhibitions that foster active participation
  • Other types of activities and projects that lead to active participation in traditional arts practices within and between cultural communities

What We Do Not Fund

General operating support

  • Projects whose main purpose is fundraising
  • Projects limited to an historical emphasis, including events presenting the recreation of past lifestyles
  • Projects based on the interpretation of a cultural tradition, instead of the actual tradition or cultural art form itself
  • Projects based in educational institutions (K-12, private schools and universities), such as folk arts-in- education projects, university seminars and programs, or curriculum development
  • Out-of-state travel
  • Apprenticeships for one-on-one intensive learning in a traditional art form (See ACTA's Apprenticeship Program, which exclusively serves this type of project.)
  • More than one proposal per organization (except for fiscal sponsors applying on behalf of more than one organization)
  • Proposals for multiple components of the same festival, event, or project


You are not eligible to apply if you are a grantee of the:

  • William & Flora Hewlett Foundation; and/or
  • Walter & Elise Haas Fund


Folk and traditional arts are those art forms that are learned as part of the cultural life of a group of people whose members share a common heritage, language religion, occupation, or region. These expressions are deeply rooted in and reflective of a community’s shared standards of beauty, values, or life experiences. Folk and traditional arts are, ultimately, passed on from one generation to the next and express a collective wisdom, rather than a unique personal aesthetic.

Some folk and traditional arts have been brought to California from other countries or regions and have taken root here to become interwoven with the state’s cultural landscape and identity, while others have prospered on the more than 130 tribal reservations and rancherias in this state.

A few examples, of the many hundreds of distinctive types found in this tremendously diverse and culturally rich state, include Cowboy poetry; Hmong reverse appliqué embroidery; Mexican corridos (ballads) and mariachi music; African American quilts; Japanese bonsai; Native American basketry; ceremonial regalia construction and ritual music/dance; South Indian Bharata Natyam dance; Western saddle making; Chinese qin instrumental music; Portuguese fado singing; Native Hawaiian kahiko hula chant and dance; Pilipino rondalla music ensembles are but a few of the many hundreds of distinctive types found in this tremendously diverse and culturally rich state.  


  • California-based 501 (c) 3 non-profit organizations
  • Cultural communities or groups who do not have 501 (c) 3 status may work through a California-based non-profit fiscal sponsor
  • Applicants must have an organizational budget under $250,000 per year
  • If you have received Living Cultures funding consecutively in the last three years (2020, 2019, 2018), we ask you to sit out one year before reapplying


In 2021, we will be making approximately 54 grants up to $5,000 each


Grants can support activities between March 1, 2021, and February 28, 2022


Proposals must be submitted by December 8, 2020. The online application will close at 11:59 PM PST. Notifications will be in mid-February 2021.

Review Process & Criteria

Each proposal will be evaluated by a panel of traditional arts and culture specialists as well as artist-practitioners with the following criteria in mind:

  • Artistic quality and traditionality of artists or tradition bearers involved in the project
  • Cultural significance of the traditions in the context of its community
  • Inclusion of cultural expertise in project planning
  • Viability of the project, as evident in a realistic work plan, appropriate budget, and qualifications of project personnel
  • Discussion of evaluation of the project which would be appropriate for your work
  • Evidence of community support and involvement in project planning
  • The potential for positive impacts on traditional artists or tradition bearers, target communities, or the applicant organization

After all other criteria are met, preference will be given to those projects whose traditions and cultural practices face endangerment. ACTA’s Board of Directors will review and approve the grants recommended by the review panel.


  1. Proposal Information and Summary
  2. Proposal Narrative (questions “a - i”)
  3. Proposed Project Budget
  4. Organizational Budget
  5. Letter(s) of Community Support (2 maximum)
  6. Proof of Tax Exempt Status or Tribal Status
  7. Work Samples and Descriptions
  8. Supplementary Materials (optional) (3 maximum)

1. Proposal Information and Summary. Consists of eligibility questions, contact information, basic details about your cultural organization or group as well as about your proposed project. Please note that if you are a cultural organization or group without 501(c) 3 status and will be using a fiscal sponsor, then this part of the application also includes an additional section requesting information about your fiscal sponsor.

2. Proposal Narrative. In addition to a brief summary of your proposed project, you will be asked to address each of the following questions in your proposal:

a) What cultural traditions are central to your proposal and what is their significance to the community?

b) What is your proposed project or activity?

c) Describe your work plan and timeline for the grant period (January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020).

d) Describe your organization's brief cultural history and programs. Focus on a few relevant accomplishments.

e) Who are the traditional artists or culture bearers participating in your project or activity and what are their qualifications?

f) Do you have community involvement and/or cultural expertise involved in the project planning? Who are the people responsible for implementing the project or activity and what are their qualifications?

g) Who are the groups or individuals who will be served? How will you attract participation? Is your project or activity accessible to your community and/or other communities?

h) How will the proposed activities make a difference to your community now and in the future? What will be the long-term benefit(s) of the proposed project?

i) How will you evaluate your proposed project's impact?

3. Proposed Project Budget. See detailed instructions in application.

4. Organizational Budget. You will be asked to provide your organization’s most recently completed fiscal year’s actual and projected revenue and expenses. The application includes a fill-in table where you can input this data.

5. Letter(s) of Community Support. One letter of community support is required but two are requested. These are letters from those who will be impacted by the project. Letters that reflect the voice of a community perspective a recommended. 

6. Proof of Tax Exempt Status or Tribal Status. Include a copy of your official Federal IRS letter acknowledging 501(c) (3) status or proof of tribal status. No other documents may be substituted.

7. Work Samples and Descriptions. See detailed instructions in application.

8. Supplementary Materials (optional). See detailed instructions in application.

Required questions/fields are marked with a red asterisk (*). While your work will be saved automatically, it is advisable to scroll down the bottom of the page and save your work periodically. Your submitted application is due on December 8, 2020 by 11:59 PM PST. 

Lily Kharrazi

Submittable technical support support@submittable.com or visit the Help Center.
The Alliance for California Traditional Arts is the statewide partner to the California Arts Council in serving the state’s folk and traditional arts field. The Living Cultures Grants Program is a program of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) in partnership with the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, Walter and Elise Haas Fund, Grants for the Arts, and The California Endowment.

We use Submittable to accept and review our submissions.