Cal Humanities

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

Fall 2023 Project Grants Awarded $330,000 for Engaging Humanities Programs Across California

Exhibition art from a newly-commissioned animated video, crafted for grantee project Sowing Seeds: Filipino American Stories from the Pajaro Valley.

For Immediate Release 
Media Contact:  Kerri Young, Communications Manager, kyoung@calhum.org 

December 4, 2023—(Oakland, CA)—California Humanities has just announced its latest Humanities for All Project Grant awards totaling $330,000. Over the next two years, these grants, ranging from $13,000 to $25,000, will support the work of 14 nonprofit organizations and public agencies across the state to explore little-known aspects of California history and culture, and provide opportunities for new voices and stories to be heard. The list of awarded projects includes an Indigenous-led oral history project that will preserve and share stories and histories from the Native people of Point Reyes, a film festival in Watsonville that will celebrate California’s vibrant cultural tradition of lowriding, and an exhibit and public programming series in San Diego aiming to inspire young people to fulfill their own dreams by sharing the story of celebrated author Octavia Butler.    

Using many different approaches, the newly awarded projects will provide engaging and accessible learning opportunities for the public, including interpretive exhibits (physical and digital), performances and discussions, lectures, workshops and demonstrations, film screenings, and activities embedded in community celebrations or festivals. In addition to inviting participation from people of different ages, abilities, and backgrounds, several projects will focus on involving youth in humanities-based learning and knowledge production activities. Many will offer programming in multiple languages. All involve collaborations with individuals and institutions in communities across the state and will draw upon the contributions of community members, scholars, culture bearers, public intellectuals, and other supporters. 

Square black and white photograph of a woman wearing a plaid shirt, standing in a field of wildflowers.
Photograph of Aladina Cawaling, a Filipina cannery worker, in a field of flowers near her home in the Pajaro Valley, c. 1960s. Courtesy of Sowing Seeds: Filipino American Stories from the Pajaro Valley.

“This diverse group of fall 2023 Project Grant awardees will celebrate the richness of California cultural life as well as some its lesser-known heroes, while at the same time stimulating dialogue around some of our more painful California histories,” said President & CEO Rick Noguchi. We look forward to seeing these projects engage audiences in thoughtful, meaningful humanities programming over the next two years.”

Painting of a woman wearing a white longsleeve and black skirt being pulled by a arm across a light blue background.
Soon-duk Kim, Taken Away, 1995. Courtesy of Comfort Women: Then and Now–Who They Were and Why We Should Remember Them.
Photo of people at a training session.
A training session with the Civil Rights Institute of Inland Southern California. Courtesy of Homegrown Heroes: Inland Empire Civil Rights Activists.

The Project Grant program, a branch of our Humanities for All competitive grant program, provides funding twice a year for public humanities projects of up to two years duration from the award date. Launched in 2016, the program has now made 163 awards, totaling almost $3 million.

Projects Awarded Fall 2023 

Hitch Stories
Regents of the University of California, Berkeley

Luis Santana, Jeremy Sorgen, and Jun Sunseri, Project Directors

Faculty and students at the University of California, Berkeley, working in partnership with Robinson Rancheria and other Clear Lake Tribes, will develop Hitch Stories, a cultural revitalization program that will engage Tribal youth and Elders in a series of storytelling and story-learning activities that will culminate in a digital exhibit and community events in summer and fall 2025. By co-creating the exhibit and programs with community members, the project aims to build a sense of shared purpose and understanding around the importance of protecting and preserving the legacy of “the hitch,” a traditional fishing practice, that will codify knowledge, stories and legends, and other forms of cultural expression.

Homegrown Heroes: Inland Empire Civil Rights Activists
Civil Rights Institute of Inland Southern California, Riverside

Sabrina Gonzalez, Project Director

Homegrown Heroes: Inland Empire Civil Rights Activists is a multi-component public history project grounded in interviews with Inland region civil rights leaders focusing on five major areas of concern: race and ethnicity, gender, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity, and disability. Recorded oral histories will provide content for short films and a public exhibition launching in fall 2024 that will foster wider public engagement with and conversation around the long history of civil rights activism in inland Southern California. Work products will continue to provide resources and inspiration for the public and educational users, as part of a publicly available and searchable online archive.

Comfort Women: Then and Now–Who They Were and Why We Should Remember Them
Los Angeles United Methodist Museum of Social Justice, Los Angeles

Jennifer Gutierrez, Project Director

In collaboration with Comfort Women Action for Redress and Education (CARE), a California-based organization led by survivors of World War II-era institutionalized sex slavery and human trafficking, a new interpretive exhibit opening in February 2024 will bring to light the experiences of these abused women and girls and their struggle for justice. Using historical photographs, documents, maps, and storytelling, the exhibition will foster public understanding of how an event that happened more than 70 years ago is still relevant in the context of present-day human trafficking and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV), and how these women transformed from victims to activists.

Genocide Mapping
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco

Tomoko Kanamitsu, Project Director

The City of San Francisco removed a statue of Columbus in 2020, but other monuments and street names tied to the genocide of Indigenous peoples remain. In response, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will partner with the American Indian Cultural District (AICD) to present Genocide Mapping, a series of art and humanities activities during 2024 and 2025 that will bring attention to the intentional erasure of American Indian history and culture. The project will include an exhibit of an interpretive map that locates monuments around the city that honor figures linked to the genocide of American Indians. A series of programs will stimulate learning and dialogue and invite public feedback on artists’ proposals for how these monuments might be reimagined.

Indigenous Voices of Tamal-liwa: GIS-StoryMaps of Coast Miwok Stories
Alliance for Felix Cove, Pt. Reyes (Movement Strategy Center, fiscal sponsor)

Theresa Harlan, Project Director

As California continues its reckoning to address the wrongs committed against Indigenous peoples of the state, retelling the stories of the first land stewards of this place is crucial. This project, a partnership between The Alliance for Felix Cove, a Native-led organization, and StoryCenter, with support from Dominican University, aims to provide Coast Miwok families of Tomales Bay the opportunity to tell their stories and make visible the lives and history of the Coast Miwok/Támal-ko people of west Marin. Over the next two years, the project team will produce a collection of stories shared by members of the community in a digital video format, along with a companion exhibition, live public programs, and set of audio stories for broadcast on local radio stations.

King Carlos III Statue Programs and Exhibit
Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, Santa Barbara

Anne Petersen, Project Director

This project will develop a new interpretive exhibit and public programs to recontextualize a statue of King Carlos III, which is on display as a long-term loan from the City of Santa Barbara at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park (El Presidio SHP). The recontextualization is an opportunity to explore the complex legacy of colonialism with the public and to present multiple perspectives on that legacy, as well as to explore the broader subject of how we commemorate history. The new exhibit, which will open in June 2025, will be developed with the participation of diverse community members, including Native people, descendants of Presidio soldiers, current residents of many backgrounds, and local officials.

More Than Cars: Celebrating Lowrider Culture
Watsonville Film Festival, Watsonville

Consuelo Alba, Project Director

Lowriding is a powerful expression of the creative spirit in the form of art on wheels. Since the 1940s, lowriding has been a source of pride and a symbol of cultural affirmation, self-expression, ingenuity, and resistance for Chicano and Mexican American communities across the state. Eight decades later, with global recognition soaring, the bans that were placed on lowriding in many California communities have recently been lifted. In collaboration with other local cultural and civic groups, along with artists, scholars, and culture bearers, the project team will curate and present a series of public events including film screenings, visual arts, oral history programs and panel discussions from March through June 2024.

Muslim Musical Mosaic Project
Muslims for Progressive Values, Los Angeles

Ani Zonneveld, Project Director

Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) will engage diverse segments of the Muslim American community in LA in a series of conversations in winter and spring 2024 to explore how music reflects traditions, ideas, culture, personal stories and histories—resulting in a unique “mosaic” of contemporary Muslim American Angeleno life. The project will be grounded in interchange, discussion and relationship-building facilitated through “salons” that will involve experts, cultural producers, artists and community members. Ideas and insights developed during this process will be shared at a culminating free public event, to include a panel discussion along with live musical performances.

Octavia E. Butler: Seed to Tree Project
The New Children’s Museum, San Diego

Lynn Basquez, Project Director

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER: SEEDING FUTURES, the first-ever long-term exhibition for youth and families focused on this extraordinary, groundbreaking, and award-winning science fiction writer, will launch the museum’s multiyear initiative, Science Fiction Creates the Future’s (SFCF) in spring 2024. Nine related public programs, including talks by scholars and hands-on workshops for families, will explore Butler’s life and legacy—her persistence in the face of many challenges she faced as a Black woman writer in a field dominated by white men —and the themes and concerns that shaped her work. The project aims to inspire families and youth, especially BIPOC and at-promise youth, to dream their lives into reality.

The Oral History Project
East Palo Alto Community Archive, East Palo Alto

Sharifa Wilson, Project Director

This project will continue the East Palo Alto (EPA) Community Archive’s Oral History Project efforts to build a collection of stories that represents the community’s diverse cultures and histories, including the perspectives of members of the city’s Latinx, Black, and Pacific Islander communities. Interviews will enable longtime residents to share their life stories and deep connections to East Palo Alto, which is experiencing rapid demographic changes due to changing economic and social conditions. Recordings will be made available to the public through the project website, which serves as a digital archive, and provide content for a series of public programs throughout 2024 and 2025 that will encourage additional community members to share their stories and memories.

The Other Albert: Not Einstein but Michelson
Angels Camp Museum, Murphys

Sunil Mehrotra, Project Director

Angels Camp Museum and the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Advisory Council for the Calaveras County Office of Education have collaborated to bring the inspiring story of scientist, musician, and philosopher Albert Michelson’s early years in Calaveras County to life through an interactive exhibit, website, and educational programs for all ages. The first American to win a Nobel Prize in physics, Michelson, a child of Jewish immigrants, arrived in Murphy’s during the Gold Rush era, and spent his childhood and early teen years in the Sierras before embarking on his illustrious scientific career. This project will use various forms storytelling about this local hero to interest and inspire young and old alike.

Radical Research in Dance–30 Points of View
Luna Dance Institute, Berkeley

John-Mario Sevilla, Project Director

Radical Research in Dance – 30 Points of View, will present a series of panel conversations and interactive presentation of dances-in-process in winter and spring 2025 that will put the spotlight on Bay Area BIPOC and LGBTQ dancers and choreographers who are addressing the pervasive challenges of our time through their creative practices. Highlighting how dance can be reclaimed as a foundational, global human experience, featuring the broadest possible representation of bodies and dance practices, the project will engage students as well as adults in exploring the multiplicity of ways dance can embody and help us imagine a more just and inclusive world.

Sowing Seeds: Filipino American Stories from the Pajaro Valley
University of California, Santa Cruz

Kathleen Gutierrez, Project Director

This project, four years in development, will highlight the history and memory of the first generation of Filipino farmworkers to arrive in the United States in the early twentieth century. Opening in April 2024 at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, the exhibit brings together original oral history interviews, archival research, and contemporary works of art to feature multidimensional narratives of belonging, community formation, and memory preservation. Extensive public programming throughout the rest of the year will challenge assumptions about the Asian American experience, encourage the preservation of community memories, and inspire inquiry at the intersection of historical research and the arts.

This Valley is Sacred: The Ancestors are Speaking
Lancaster Museum and Public Art Foundation, Lancaster

Andi Campognone, Project Director

Developed in collaboration with local Tribal groups and Native culture bearers over many years, This Valley is Sacred: Our Ancestors are Speaking, is a multi-faceted exhibition and community engagement project that will enable visitors to see the harsh realities and beauty of the Antelope Valley through the perspectives of Native peoples. Launching in May 2024, an immersive exhibit curated by members of local Tribal groups will guide visitors along a timeline from the dawn of Creation, the period of abundance, the time of extermination, to the present day. Public programs taking place throughout summer 2024 for all ages will expand on the content of the exhibit and encourage public discussion and engagement with a wide range of related topics.


California Humanities, a statewide nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, promotes the humanities—focused on ideas, conversation, and learning—as relevant, meaningful ways to understand the human condition and connect people to each other in order to help strengthen California. California Humanities has provided grants and programs across the state since 1975. To learn more, visit calhum.org, or like and follow on Instagram, Facebook, X, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

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