California Story Fund
A grants program to fund unique story projects in communities throughout the state.
Sign up here to receive e-mail announcements about Council news and opportunities, including grant application deadlines.
The California Story Fund (CSF) is a competitive grant program that supports community-centered, story-based public humanities projects that uncover and share the stories of California’s communities. These projects contribute to our evolving understanding of our California—past and present. The program has granted over $2 million to nearly 300 projects since its inception in 2003. Information about recently funded projects can be found below.
- Projects funded spring and fall 2011
- Projects funded 2010
- Projects funded spring 2009
- Council awards nearly $200,000 to 21 story projects: Press Release
- Projects funded spring and fall 2008
- Projects funded fall 2007
- Projects funded 2003-2007
- Beijing, CA: The Fight Over Confucius Classrooms
Lodestone Theatre Ensemble, Los Angeles
Project Director: Philip W. Chung
What does it really mean to embrace the rich and diverse cultural tapestry of California’s peoples? The documentary, Beijing, CA, seeks to answer that question by examining both the acceptance of and opposition to Chinese language classrooms in the Hacienda-La Puente Unified School District. Beijing, CA will be screened at a community event and panel, cultural institutions, community organizations, universities, and schools throughout the state. The film will also be submitted to national and international film festivals.
- Calling This Home: A People’s History of Refugee Settlement to the Bay Area
International Rescue Committee – San Francisco, San Francisco
Project Director: Lauren Markham
Since 1975, the International Rescue Committee has resettled over 30,000 refugees in the Bay Area. This multi-media oral history project will tell the dynamic stories of those resident refugees who have fled international conflict and human rights abuses to rebuild their lives in the Bay Area, while also exploring the unique personal, social, and political challenges faced in the process. Corresponding curriculum, along with an interactive website, will be available for use by educational institutions, community organizations, and the general public.
- The Comic-Con Kids: Finding and Defining Fandom
The Campanile Foundation (San Diego State University), San Diego
Project Director: Rob Ray
A unique aspect of California culture that grew out of the counter-culture movement of the 1970s, finding expression through graphic narratives, science fiction, and fantasy writing, Comic-Con attracts hundreds of thousands of participants to its annual gatherings in San Diego. The project team will interview and record oral histories with Comic-Con’s founders, which will be shared, along with primary and secondary materials, on the project’s website. Public programs will provide opportunities for community members, scholars and archivists to explore related topics.
- Democracia: The Impact of Community Service Organization in California
Regents of the University of California/UC San Diego, San Diego
Project Director: Gretchen Laue
The little-known story of the Community Service Organization (CSO), a civic action organization that engaged and empowered Mexican Americans across California during the 1940s and 1950s, will be brought to light through this project. The project will develop a website to house an extensive oral history collection as well as primary and secondary source materials and educational resources. Public programs to be held in San Jose, Hanford, and the Imperial Valley in 2012 will provide opportunities for story-sharing and dialogue.
- The Democracy of Inclusion
Arts Council of Kern County, Bakersfield
Project Director: Jill Egland
Giving voice to a community whose voices are seldom heard, emerging filmmakers from the Kern Film Workshop, a vocational program for young people and adults with developmental disabilities, will work with a team of professional filmmakers and humanities advisors to document stories about participation, tolerance, and inclusion elicited from Kern residents. The film premiere in Bakersfield will be followed by screenings and discussions throughout the county; broadcasts and distribution will reach wider audiences.
- Fostering Democracy
A Home Within, Inc., San Francisco
Project Director: Amanda Herman
Fostering Democracy is a creative non-fiction writing and photography project by foster youth that will chronicle their personal journeys in the California foster care system, explore their roles in the democratic process politically and personally, and examine how related actions can influence their futures. The project will culminate with a public book launch and exhibit and a series of signings and readings by students in Bay Area bookstores. A selection of the book will also be available as a downloadable PDF on the project website, along with featured images and text from the exhibit.
- “I Have A Story to Tell”: Creating Engagement with L.A. Histories
Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, Los Angeles
Project Director: Yusef Omowale
A year-long project pairing professional storytellers with community residents will investigate and document the history of social change in South Los Angeles, and contribute to revitalizing oral traditions with deep cultural roots. Working with humanities advisors, including scholars and archivists, “griot teams” will develop dramatic presentations. The story performances and accompanying community dialogues will be videotaped and shared on the project website, along with curriculum materials for use by educators.
- A Landscape Full of Stories
North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center, Nevada City
Project Director: Shana Maziarz
Untold stories of the logging, ranching, and mining history, along with those of current residents of the San Juan Ridge community, will be documented and shared in A Landscape Full of Stories, a multi-media project and public exhibit. The exhibit, reception and community dialogue at the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center, along with an interactive website and online exhibit, will enhance the public’s knowledge of the region’s contributions to greater California history, cultures and peoples.
- Look to the Source: Intergenerational Talk Story with Pacific Islander Elders
Pacific Islander Health Partnership, Garden Grove
Project Director: Juliet McMullin
With over 282,000 Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NWPI) in California, Look to the Source, will tell the compelling storied of community elders through the native oral history tradition of “talk story” sessions conducted by Pacific Islander youth and young adults. This project will enhance the greater public’s understanding of the effects and importance of the NWPI community’s efforts to preserve cultural knowledge and practices, and will be presented at community and university events and on an interactive project website.
- The Lunch Love Community Documentary Project
Citizen Film, Inc., San Francisco
Project Director: Helen De Michiel
Seeking a healthier eating environment for their children and other Berkeley public school students, a passionate group of Berkeley residents struggled to create the Berkeley Food Policy and Lunch Initiative over a ten-year period. This ten-minute web series will tell the story of these committed residents and explore the role of civic engagement on food advocacy. The series will screen throughout the Northern California region, in conjunction with panels and community discussions.
- Making Public Spheres in South Los Angeles: Storytelling Community Organizer Struggles to Create Democratic Spaces in South Los Angeles
Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism/University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Project Director: George Villanueva
Despite its often dystopian portrayal in the media, South Los Angeles has a rich history of civic engagement that will be documented by students and scholars from USC’s community-based research initiative, The Metamorphosis Project, using interviews, photography, and videography. Community activists and organizers will share stories about efforts to preserve and expand public spaces and spaces for democratic participation in the neighborhood, which will be recorded and interpreted through the project website, a physical exhibit, and on- and off-campus public programs.
- Rhythm of the Refugee
Friends of Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, Oakland
Project Director: Holly Alonso
Oakland’s Cambodian refugee community discovers the power of traditional music and cultural practices in the process of healing after the Cambodian Genocide in the three-part radio documentary, Rhythm of the Refugee. Recorded segments will premiere at a public event and discussion at Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, along with being aired on a number of public radio stations throughout the Bay Area.
- Sharing Our Stories: Diversity in the Inland Empire
Crafton Hills College, Yucaipa
Project Director: Tom Bryant
Responding to the growing diversity of western San Bernardino County, dramatized stories from community college students will provide a way for residents to reflect on the changes and challenges, including prejudice and intolerance, faced by people of many different cultural backgrounds. Performances and accompanying discussions will take place at the college, high schools and community settings throughout the region in Fall 2012; a videotaped performance will be archived online to reach wider audiences.
- Soul Calling
Fresno Art Museum, Fresno
Project Director: Linda Cano
For many years, the Hmong peoples have used “Paj ntaub” (traditional Hmong story cloth) to tell the rich stories of their community. The Fresno Art Museum will present the exhibit Soul Calling, a five-month public exhibit at the museum focused on this unique cultural tradition. Activities will include an accompanying photo exhibit, a community discussion and panel, educational artist workshops, music and dance performances, and literary readings.
- There It Is - Take It: Looking Back at 100 Years of the Los Angeles Aqueduct
Friends of the Eastern California Museum, Independence
Project Director: Kim Stringfellow
There It Is – Take It, a web-based multi-media project and self-guided car audio tour, will examine the complex, and often controversial, social, political and environmental history of the Los Angeles Aqueduct through the diverse perspectives of cultural geographers, historians, biologists, activists, environmentalists, native speakers, and residents of Los Angeles and the Owens Valley. The project will be designed for a variety of age groups and include an online forum for public discussion, along with a free download of the audio tour.
- An Uncommon Commons: The Power of Public Place
West Marin Commons/On The Commons, Point Reyes Station
Project Director: Elizabeth Barnet
Outdoor gathering places have long played a major role in communities throughout California and beyond. Uncommon Commons is a short documentary that will explore the concept of outdoor public community space in community building, civic engagement and activities of participatory democracy. The film will be screened at a West Marin conference and panel, educational institutions, and community and governments organizations, along with being submitted to national film festivals.
- Voices of the Timber Industry
Timber Heritage Association, Eureka
Project Director: Renee Ross
Although Native people have played a major role in the development of Northwest California’s timber industry, their contributions are little known. This oral history project will address that gap, as well as enlarge our understanding of California’s environmental history and culture, by gathering stories from local Native and non-Native loggers and millers that will be archived and shared through the project website. Public programs at community and tribal cultural centers will expand understanding of the diversity of views on land and resource use.
- The Water Writes Mural Project: Klamath River
Estria Foundation, Oakland
Project Director: Nancy Hernandez
A collaboration between artists, tribal members, fishermen, environmental advocates and other residents, and humanities advisors, this project will share the natural and cultural history of the Klamath River through a mural to be installed in downtown Arcata. One of 10 water-focused mural projects around the world being implemented by the sponsoring organization, the mural will document an important chapter in California’s environmental and political history and serve as a springboard to community conversations about the future of the river.
- We Are Not Your Dumping Ground: Youth Stories of Environmental Justice from the Streets of South Sacramento
Ubuntu Green, Sacramento
Project Director: Charles Mason, Jr.
In partnership with local community organizations, Sacramento Unified School District, and UC Davis Center for Regional Change, the sponsoring organization will assemble a team of young people from South Sacramento to document community efforts to achieve environmental justice. Using humanities research methods and digital media, guided by academic and community scholars, youth will record stories, develop online and physical exhibits, and organize public programs, including intergenerational story-sharing events, to preserve and share a history of community engagement and democratic participation.
- Wende Moments: A Multigenerational View of Immigration by the Soviet Jews to Los Angeles During the Late 1970s and Early 1980s
Wende Museum, Culver City
Project Director: Ljiljana Grubisic
Focusing on the experiences of five multigenerational families, this oral history-based project will document the story of Soviet Jewish immigration to California, exploring, among other issues, how this community has responded to opportunities for political participation afforded by American democracy. Interviews will be recorded and edited into a video documentary, to be screened and discussed through a series of programs and events planned at local museums, universities and in community settings and made available through the museum’s website.
- When Dreams Are Interrupted (Sacramento and San Diego)
Purple Moon Dance Project, San Francisco
Project Director: Jill Togawa
Through a series of site-specific performances, followed by community conversations in each city, this project will share stories of Californians of Japanese-American ancestry who were forcibly removed from their homes during WWII. Part of a larger multidisciplinary and multimedia collaboration between historians and performing artists to document California’s historic Japantowns, the project will document the rupture of these communities, and invite audiences to better understand these experience of loss, as well as reflect on and voice their own responses.
- Changing Neighborhoods, Changing Communities: Boyle Heights and the Phillips Music Company
Grand Performances, Los Angeles
Project Director: Leigh Ann Hahn
During the middle years of the 20th century, The Phillips Music Company of Boyle Heights provided a place where Japanese-, Jewish-, and Mexican-American residents of this Los Angeles immigrant enclave both encountered each others’ cultural traditions and invented new ones. This oral history-based project will produce a live multimedia performance in summer 2011 at Grand Performances, a free outdoor concert venue, featuring storytelling, poetry readings, and musical performances. It will also create an interactive website to share project-produced materials as well as archival materials documenting the history of this vibrant multicultural community.
- Decade of Dissent: Democracy in Action 1965-1975
Center for the Study of Political Graphics, Los Angeles
Project Director: Mary Sutton
The interpretive exhibit, Decade of Dissent, is focused on 50-60 political posters produced by diverse social movements in California and will document the importance of poster art in developing and promoting the ideals of democracy. Curatorial annotations and artists statements will help visitors explore the relationship of art and activism. The exhibit will be presented in collaboration with the City of West Hollywood and supplemented by panel discussions, storytelling events, high school exhibits, a youth poster/printmaking workshop, and an online exhibit.
- Dr. Sun Yat-Sen and the Three People’s Principles
Chinese Historical Society of America, San Francisco
Project Director: Francis Wong
A Chautauqua-style living history performance series about Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the Founding Father of modern China, will examine the influence of American society and democratic values on his political philosophy. The interactive format allows audiences to interrogate the scholar-performer, both in and out of character, providing an engaging, entertaining and accessible public humanities experience. Primarily focused on the Chinese American community of San Francisco, especially young people, presentations will be made available to other communities on an ongoing basis, and a videotaped performance will be recorded and shared online through the sponsoring organization’s website, along with contextualizing material.
- Growing Leaders: Youth, Gardening and Governance in Richmond, California
Urban Tilth, Richmond
Project Director: Doria Robinson
A community-based research project and video documentary will tell the story of how disenfranchised Richmond youth have grown to become leaders of a local youth gardening movement. The DVD and accompanying educational materials will be distributed to area high schools and youth advocacy groups to encourage discussion about civic and youth engagement in community gardening projects. A local organic nursery, Sunnyside Organic Seedlings, will also be hosting a community screening and celebration.
- Hayward’s Gay Prom
Friends of the Hayward Public Library, Hayward
Project Director: Laurie Willis
This teen film project will explore the 15-year history and significance of the city’s annual gay prom in a democratic society. Public screenings and discussions will encourage dialogue about the unique challenges faced by LGBT youth in the greater community. In addition, the film will be distributed to student clubs and teachers throughout California through the Youth in Motion Project, aired on local cable, and available for viewing on the library’s free channel on Blip TV.
- The Khmer Youth Archive Project
Little Tokyo Service Center, Los Angeles
Project Director: Gena Hamamoto
This female, youth video project will document the experience of Long Beach Khmer immigrants and refugees, and explore the unique social challenges faced by this marginalized community. The videos will be screened at a community/media event as part of a larger campaign to raise awareness and involve the greater Long Beach community, along with a post-screening discussion and Q&A. Videos will also be available online and housed at several local archive centers.
- New Birth of Freedom: Civil War to Civil Rights in California
Center for Oral and Public History/CSU Fullerton
Project Director: Benjamin Cawthra
This multimedia exhibit juxtaposing the Civil War and Civil Rights eras will explore the distinctive role California has played in shaping the nation’s ongoing struggle for equality over the last 150 years. Both the exhibit and accompanying public programs will bring to light stories from Southern California communities, particularly those of African-, Mexican- and Japanese-Americans in the region, exploring the themes of democracy, participation, and equal justice under the law. Educational outreach materials and an online component will further extend the reach of the project, which coincides with national observance of the Civil War sesquicentennial.
- Poetry for Democracy
poetryXchange, Huntington Beach
Project Director: Sue Cronmiller
Poetry writing workshops, organized around the theme of democracy, will be provided to El Sol Academy middle-school students by faculty and students at UC Irvine in partnership with poetryXchange. Student work will be shared with public audiences in a series of literary events including poetry readings, open mikes and Q&A sessions in Orange County, along with a weblog providing an ongoing portrait, overview and chronicle of the project. In addition, students will be invited to travel with the Merage Foundation to Washington, DC to read their poetry at the annual National Leadership Awards Dinner in June 2011.
- Resurrected Histories: Voices from the Chicano Arts Collectives of Highland Park
Avenue 50 Studio, Los Angeles
Project Director: Kathy Gallegos
The tension between individual expression and social responsibility in a democracy will be examined through the stories of Chicano community artists active during the 1960s and 80s. Young people from the community, working with scholars and a filmmaker, will interview the artists about their experiences, focusing on the themes of engaged artistry, the role of public art, democracy, personal expression and social needs. The short videos they produce will be screened at an exhibit focused on art of the period, and shared online through the sponsoring organization’s and the videographer’s websites.
- The Search for Equality: LGBT Stories of Democracy in Action
Media Arts Center San Diego, San Diego $10,000
Project Director: Patric Stillman
The film, The Search for Equality: LGBT Stories of Democracy in Action, will document first-person stories from San Diego’s LGBT community that explore the basic principles of democracy, inequality, and community activism. Public screenings, community events and dialogues (in partnership with the San Diego Public Library) will help lead to a greater understanding of the social and political challenges faced by LGBT people. In addition, all stories will be available on the Internet and 100 DVDs, along with discussion and research guides, will be distributed to local non-profits and public libraries throughout the state.
- So Near/So Far: Navigating the Passage to Democratic Futures
Photo4Change/Tides Center, San Francisco
Project Director: Sarah Bachman
A series of workshops will offer training in reporting, photography and radio production to Pescadero high school students and recent graduates. With a focus on stories examining the rights, responsibilities, and benefits of participating in a democracy, stories (written, audio, digital photography) will be posted on the websites of Puente and Photo4Change, and broadcast on KPDO, a local public radio station. Stories that focus on youth labor issues may also be posted on the website of Child Labor & the Global Village.
- Somos Parte de la Democracia?: Culture, Democracy, and LA’s Day Labor Community
Cornerstone Theater Company, Los Angeles
Project Director: Lorena Moran
Members of LA’s innovative day laborer theater troupe, Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras, will reach out to their community to elicit stories that will reveal the meaning of democracy for people whose voices are rarely heard in public discourse about immigration and citizenship. Funding will support training of ensemble members in documentary methods and techniques; the resulting videotaped interviews will be shared on a new website and compiled, with commentary, on a DVD; stories to be gathered will also provide material for the development of future works of community-based theater to be performed by the group.
- Stories of the Spill
Earth Alert, Inc., Port Hueneme
Project Director: Janet Bridgers
The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill catalyzed grassroots activism around Prop 20, a citizen-sponsored initiative whose passage created the California Coastal Act and encouraged passage of federal environmental legislation. The project will gather stories from locals who remember the spill, along with those of citizen activists, policy makers and legislators who participated in making change through the democratic process. Geared for community and educational use, the 28-minute film will also be made available through cable, broadcast and internet distribution to raise awareness of the significance of this instance of direct democracy and its legacy for California and the nation.
- Tai Chi Chats, Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project
API Cultural Center, dba Oakland Asian Cultural Center, Oakland
Project Director: Roy Chan
A series of conversations at Madison Park will spark story sharing by Oakland Chinatown residents about their use of public space for cultural, social and recreational activities. A multimedia exhibit (visual narrative, cultural map, and video), public events, and an online archive will provide means for the project to share these stories with the broader community. The community voice expressed through storytelling, cognitive mapping, and visualization exercises will foster citizen participation in the planning process, inform city planners’ work, and illuminate the value and meaning users attach to the park.
- Take Me to Your Leader: California Indian Traditional Chieftainship and Democratic Practice
Heyday Books, Berkeley
Project Director: Margaret Dubin
This publication will examine political leadership of California tribes and the role of the modern Indian chief. Tribal leader interviews, and additional essays on the subject of tribal history and traditions, will be published as a 12-page supplement to the quarterly magazine News for Native California. A public panel and interactive blog will provide a broader cultural and historic context for democracy within tribal governance, and the supplement will also be distributed to schools for classroom use and discussion.
- Talk Story: Democracy - How Immigrant Senior Citizens View American Democracy
EngAGE: The Art of Active Aging, Burbank
Project Director: Tim Carpenter
California is home to many older immigrants whose voices are seldom heard; this project will enable a group of these seniors to share their stories of fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams of freedom, the meaning of the power to vote and make political change with the larger community. Workshops at three low-income housing facilities will empower residents to share stories about immigration, citizenship, and participation. These stories will be developed into spoken word pieces and performed in community settings; recordings will be broadcast, streamed and archived on KPFK radio and the sponsoring organization’s website to a listening audience of 250,000.
- Tenderloin: Stories of Transformation
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Historical Society, San Francisco
Project Director: Joey Plaster
The political awakening of the GLBT community is the subject of this project documenting the historical moment in which GLBT people entered the political sphere, led by a coalition of community and faith-based leaders in San Francisco in the early 1960s. GLBT youth living in the Tenderloin today will learn about their community’s history through participation in project-related oral history and archival research activities. The project will produce an exhibit, a multi-media web-based component, and public history programming for general audiences as well as homeless GLBT youth in San Francisco and faith communities across the country.
- Through the Ages High School Residency, Performances, and Podcast
About Productions, Pasadena
Project Director: Rose Portillo
Approximately 25 high risk Latino students from a continuation high school, many of whom are unfamiliar with their community’s rich history of civic engagement and political activism, will develop writing, communication and research skills by interviewing Chicano Movement leaders from the 1960s and 70s. Working alongside experienced theater artists, the young people will write short plays based on their research and perform two staged readings at Plaza de la Raza in Los Angeles in early 2012, for the school community as well as general audiences. The performances will be recorded for podcasting, shared on the web, accompanied by online discussions.
- Woman Inside: Narratives from America’s Incarcerated Women
Voice of Witness, San Francisco
Project Director: Mimi Lok
An oral history and book project will explore the role of democracy in the lives of women in the U.S. prison system through first-person narratives. Following completion of the final manuscript, the book will be published by McSweeney’s Publishing and distributed to over 100,000 high school students throughout the U.S in partnership with Facing History and Ourselves. In addition, books will be available in bookstores and libraries in every major U.S. city, and a partnership with Justice Now will result in a series of readings, panels and workshops at women’s prisons in California and throughout the U.S.
- World Premiere Production of Tom Jacobson’s The Chinese Massacre (Annotated), Talkback Series and Small Exhibition
Circle X Theatre Co., Los Angeles
Project Director: Timothy Wright
An original theater piece will explore a dark chapter in California history—the 1871 massacre of 19 Chinese Americans in LA’s first race riot—through dramatized first-person narratives and commentaries drawn from historical archives. Post-play “talkbacks”, an informational website, and a small exhibit will provide additional learning and discussion opportunities for audiences interested in considering the relationship of law and justice to democracy, then and now. A full scale theatrical production will coincide with Asian Pacific Heritage Month events; a videotaped performance will be archived online to reach additional audiences.
The Council awarded five California Story Fund grants in 2010, through a special donor-directed funding process supported by the BayTree Fund.
- “An American Mosque”
San Francisco Film Society
Project Director: David Washburn
An American Mosque tells the story of Yuba City’s Muslim farming community and the events surrounding the 1994 arson that destroyed the local mosque. The film presents an intimate portrait of this rural California community and inspires viewers to reconsider what is American.
- “Borrowed Voices: The Stories of Incarcerated Youth”
Center for California Cultural and Social Issues/Pitzer College
Project Director: Deborah Lieberman
“Borrowed Voices”—a program held at a juvenile detention facility in La Verne—is a community-based writing and self-expression program designed to develop the stories of incarcerated youth and deliver them to a broader audience. Over 25 college students work together with more than 100 young, male detainees to establish an intellectually liberating environment through exploration of the creative writing process.
- “The Future of Small Town California”
Center for Media Change, Inc.
Project Director: Lisa Morehouse
This series of short radio documentaries explores how shifts in industry and population impact the identity, culture, economy, and even language of small towns across the state. By reflecting small town diversity—racial, economic, linguistic, political—the documentaries challenge perceptions of rural populations and help listeners consider how small towns reflect our history and our future.
- “Making Waves in Inlandia: An Oral History for the Women Leaders of the Environment in the Inland Empire in the 1960s and 1970s”
Riverside Arts Council
Project Director: Marion Mitchell-Wilson
This oral history and digital mapping project documents and makes publicly accessible the stories of nine women who were environmental movement leaders in the Inland Empire during the 1960s and 1970s. (The Inland Empire, a Southern California region of over 29,000 square miles, comprises the two largest counties in the nation.) A combination of images and text articulate and attest to the astonishing variety of landscapes and habitats these women protected.
- “My Town, My Life, My Story: A Graphic Novel Program about Growing Up in San Leandro”
San Leandro Public Library, Main Branch
Project Director: Kelly Keefer
Through guest authors and San Leandro’s writers-in-schools program, this ten-session project engages local teens in grades 8-12 to reflect on their experiences living in and around San Leandro. The teens write graphic novels focused on one “defining moment”—an event, occasion, or struggle—that has been pivotal to them, then share their stories with the larger community through a public event.