Thank you Amy Kitchener of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts ACTA in Fresno, an organization she co-founded in 1997, for inviting me to lunch last Tuesday (May 24th) with Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the NEA on his first visit to the Central Valley. The purpose of the lunch meeting, that included twenty or so local traditional artists, was Creative Placemaking, approaches through cultural activities to enhance the character and identity of neighborhoods, cities and regions. In my little canyon most of the time, I was once again surprised to see that the San Joaquin Valley is indeed a melting pot of many cultures. The NEA’s new slogan ‘ART WORKS’ seems an ambitious and sensible approach to enriching all our lives.
Richard Hagopian and his grandson on the drum opened with some traditional Armenian music and Julie Tex and her daughters demonstrated Mono Basketmaking. Mas Masumoto and I read to conclude the lunch in the Coke Hallowell Center at the San Joaquin River Parkway. ACTA Board Member Malcolm Margolin of Heyday was in attendance, bringing a small slice of his Great Valley Books. (His press, releasing a new collection every two weeks, focuses on California.)
Coincidently, I was questioned recently about NEA’s ‘subsidy’ of cowboy poetry, all stemming from the unsubstantiated comments on the Rush Limbaugh radio show last month. I continue to be dismayed that despite the facts, people believe what they want to believe – like gathering acorns, looking to fill their empty baskets.