The Arhoolie Foundation Year-End Letter

Looking back at this last year, the Arhoolie Foundation continues the work of promoting and preserving roots-based American music. From Mississippi to Louisiana, Florida, Mexico, and of course the Bay Area, the Foundation is helping tell the stories of the music and musicians who have created such a rich vernacular tradition. We wanted to share with you some of our efforts and ask for your help in expanding our reach in the coming year.
The start of the year took us to Clarksdale to work on our annual Arhoolie AwardsThe Arhoolie Awards: Celebrating American Roots Music celebrated the largest class of award winners in our history. The show featured rare archival performances by Rose Maddox, the Campbell Brothers, and Lalo Guerrero, and amazing new performances from Nora Brown, Alvin Lee of the Lee Boys, Miko Marks, Dueto Dos Rosas, Wilson and Joel Savoy, and Charlie Musselwhite! All these performances are still available to watch on our YouTube Channel.

In March, we launched the first exhibition from our Robert Stone Sacred Steel Collection, Tuned To The Spirit, at the A.E. Backus Museum in Ft. Pierce, FL. The exhibition opening was well attended, and we are now in the process of launching an extended tour of the photos throughout the country starting in 2024.

We continued our efforts to tell the stories of the music and musicians in our collection on, our virtual museum. We added new interviews and photo galleries featuring Sonny Boy Williamson, Mance Lipscomb, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, and Marc & Ann Savoy. Most recently, we initiated our new blog to share some of the discoveries we are constantly discovering in our collections.

We created the “Arhoolie Foundation Presents” video series with selected videos from intimate performances filmed by Chris Strachwitz over the last 30 yearsNew videos included included Taj Mahal, Barbara Dane, Lawrence Ardoin & Canray Fontenot, and others.

In September, we debuted Rumbo a California, our first bilingual online exhibition which explores the role that California record labels have played in promoting and documenting Mexican American music, culture, and social issues. The exhibition is richly illustrated with historic photos, posters, and music. It has already attracted thousands of visitors and signifies a new way for the Foundation to share the rich source material found in our collections.

The same month we also experienced a crisis when a copyright dispute shuttered our Frontera Collection YouTube channel for 30 days. The closure highlighted the impact the collection has on listeners who have built a community around the channel over the last five years. The channel was reinstated, and we are now making changes to ensure that it won’t be taken down again. Thank you to all who offered help during the blackout. We were grateful to hear from so many who appreciate the importance of the Frontera Collection.

Over the past year, we have started digitizing Chris’s collection of reel-to-reel and cassette tapes of live and studio performances. These performances contain rare, unreleased recordings from great Arhoolie artists in concert and in the studio. In 2023, we will be investing in new technology for our website to showcase portions of these tapes for the public.
Lastly, we have been working with local author and critic Joel Selvin to publish a book of the best black and white photographs that Chris took from 1956-1990. The book will showcase the cultural environments that have supported the tradition bearers of blues, Cajun, Creole, folk, country, jazz, gospel, Tejano, and Norteño music. With release expected in 2023, we will be organizing a traveling exhibition of the photos to potentially visit your town.

Chris turned 91 this year but is still an active part of the Foundation’s work. He continues to be a sought-after music leader.  His clear memories and ability to connect the different streams of American music is a resource for everyone.  Currently he is recovering from a hip operation but we expect him back in action in the coming year.

Our staff is working on some exciting new projects for the coming year. Your support will help us to continue to share more material through our website, community and online exhibitions, and maybe possibly some new releases. We have a donor willing to match each donation we make in this appeal. We ask for your help to make it all possible.
Please consider making a donation to help with our work:
$75 helps us preserve one reel of tape from the Chris Strachwitz Collection.  
$100 pays for two hours’ worth of digitizing Chris’s correspondence with Arhoolie artists.   
  $1,000 helps us continue sharing our collections through our website.
The Arhoolie Foundation wishes you the best during this holiday season. May the coming year provide lots of opportunities to celebrate and enjoy good down-home music.
— The Arhoolie Foundation
(Chris, Clark, John, Juan Antonio, & Adam)