After years of reading about cuts in government arts funding, it’s nice to see the pendulum is starting to swing the other way.
The new state budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this week includes a $10.8 million funding increase for programs of the California Arts Council. The increase is a $6.8 million one-time increase for the Arts Council and an additional $4 million ongoing allocation for the state’s Arts in Corrections program. From the council:
The funding increase for the Arts Council will expand the reach of the agency’s competitive grant programs. These programs serve California communities by funding nonprofit arts activities with a focus on arts learning and engagement; equity and access; cultural and community development; and technical support and resources for the arts field.
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The total fiscal year 2016-17 state support for the California Arts Council will reach approximately $21.1 million, inclusive of designated funding for Arts in Corrections.
Here’s hoping some of that money will trickle down to the local level – and that the state arts council will dole out those grants with the knowledge that the wealthier parts of the state have access to much more private wealth in terms of donations than the poorer parts.
Also in the news this week
Bounxeung Synanonh of Fresno, a Laotian khaen (free-reed mouth organ) player, will receive the 2016 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Synanonh is one of nine recipients nationwide. The khaen is a free-reed mouth organ made from 16 lengths of bamboo, writes The Bee’s Krysta Scripter.
He’ll be joined by another Californian, Artemio Posadas of San Jose, a master Huastecan Son (Mexican musical tradition) musician and advocate.
Amy Kitchener is executive director of the Fresno-headquartered Alliance for California Traditional Arts, the California Arts Council’s official state partner for folk and traditional arts. She says in a statement: “These awards are a wonderful recognition that will share their music and gifts with the rest of the nation. This is a proud moment for all of us in the traditional arts in California.”
The NEA will celebrate the 2016 National Heritage Fellows in Washington, DC, at an awards ceremony at the Library of Congress on Sept. 28.
Here’s more information about Synanonh from his page on the NEA website:
Laotian-born Bounxeung Synanonh is a master performer on the khaen, a free-reed mouth organ made from 16 lengths of bamboo. Born in Savannakhet, Laos, in 1949, Synanonh is a member of the majority lowland ethnic group, the Lao. At the age of 15, he lost his sight and that same year he started learning the khaen from village elders, including his uncle. The musical tradition of the khaen is essentially oral and must be learned directly from other musicians. Learning by ear, Synanonh quickly became proficient and expanded his knowledge by listening to khaen players on the radio and by performing at festivals and other community gatherings. The sound of the khaen is extraordinarily complex, as the player inhales and exhales through the instrument so it produces sounds continuously, and because of its multiple pipes, it plays multiple pitches simultaneously.
When Synanonoh immigrated to the U.S. as a refugee in the early 1980s, fleeing war and the Pathet Lao re-education camps, his musical skills were quickly prized by the stateside Lao community. The khaen and its repertoire are strongly associated with and central to lowland Lao culture. The khaen tradition is generally found in Lao communities in Laos, northeast Thailand, and in the Laotian diaspora. Synanonh is especially adept in the style of Savannakhet, his home community, but he is also recognized in the Lao community for his skill in a wide range of regional styles. He has been invited to travel to all the major Lao communities in the U.S. to perform for public events like the Lao New Year’s celebration, as well as for home-based ceremonies like that which is performed to initiate a new home.
Congratulations to Synanonh. I’m looking forward to hearing him play.