New Round of Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions honors world-class artists steeped in diverse cultural traditions

(Menlo Park, Calif. – October 26, 2021) — The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced today the recipients of this year’s Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions in Folk and Traditional Arts. The commissions will support 10 master artists in the development of major new works in traditional art forms and cultural practices, in concert with an array of Bay Area cultural institutions and nonprofit organizations. This year’s commissions represent the largest-ever single infusion of support into the historically underfunded space, and will facilitate both the preservation and evolution of traditional arts by framing them in contemporary contexts.

Launched in 2017 in honor of the Hewlett Foundation’s 50th anniversary, the five-year, $8 million Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions are a symbol of the foundation’s commitment to artistic expression and public engagement with the arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. Each year, they provide grants of $150,000 each to 10 Bay Area nonprofits to bring world-class art in one of five performing arts disciplines to communities across the Bay Area, with the commissioned projects going on to inspire, engage, and challenge audiences across the country and around the world in years to come. A minimum of $50,000 of each grant goes directly to the commissioned artist, and the balance to the nonprofit to fund development and production of the commission.

The 10 new commissions showcase the urgency of cultural preservation by honoring a broad array of artistic, musical, and cultural traditions. While the awards are rooted in the experiences of communities in and around the Bay Area, their significance extends far beyond it. Many of the commissions involve extended periods of international travel and field research and will represent cultural milestones. For example, these commissions include the first-ever American presentation of a two-day Tibetan opera in the Ache Lhamo tradition, as well as the largest Indian Nautanki folk opera ever staged in the United States.

“These commissions in Folk and Traditional Arts celebrate a group of outstanding artists and culture bearers who are advancing rich cultural traditions from the Bay Area and around the world,” said Emiko Ono, director of Hewlett’s Performing Arts Program, “We’re honored to support these vital efforts, which simultaneously deepen the knowledge these traditions carry and renew them by incorporating new perspectives and new contexts.”

This year’s Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions, selected through a process administered for the foundation by the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, will premiere over the next three years at a range of Bay Area cultural centers and institutions.

The lead artists for this year’s projects are: Brazilian American capoeira master and teacher Marcia Treidler; African American blues and jazz vocalist The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol; Iranian singer and musician Mahsa Vahdat; Tibetan American musician, dancer, and Tibetan opera singer Tsering Wangmo; seventh-generation Nautanki opera performer, writer, director, and guru Devendra Sharma; Afro-Cuban choreographer Susana Arenas Pedroso; Ghanaian American choreographer and master drummer CK Ladzekpo; Cambodian American dancer/choreographer and culture bearer Charya Burt; Native American (Tongva/Acjachemen/Raramuri) artist L. Frank Manriquez; and composer and Vietnamese master traditional artist Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ

This year’s commissioning organizations are: ABADÁ-Capoeira San Francisco, Art + Soul Oakland (dba Heart of the Town), Berkeley Society for the Preservation of Traditional Music (dba Freight & Salvage), Chaksam-pa, Dance Brigade (aka Dance Mission Theater), Devendra Sharma Nautanki Folk Opera Ensemble (with fiscal sponsorship by CounterPulse), East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, Musical Traditions, Queer Cultural Center, and Vietnamese American Nongovernmental Organization Network (VANGO).

More information about all of the commissions and presenting organizations is below.

“I’m thrilled to receive this esteemed commission that will allow me to bring together the rich history of Black American music from blues to hip-hop with an all-star ensemble incorporating the greatest jazz musicians of our time, one of Oakland’s finest homegrown rappers, and a string quartet,” said vocalist The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol, one of the commissioned artists. “This commision is an invaluable opportunity to celebrate our culture at Oakland’s 2022 Art + Soul Festival and present the breadth of music of my culture to Bay Area audiences in free performances in the Black communities of Richmond, Pittsburg, East Palo Alto, and Bayview.”

Applications for the next and final round of the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions, supporting Media Arts, will open later this year. More information can be found on the Hewlett Foundation website.