2023 Year-End Letter
Dear Arhoolie family,
As the year comes to a close, we remember our founder and inspiration, Chris Strachwitz, whom we lost on May 5 at the age of 91. We’re grateful to everyone who joined us in September to celebrate his extraordinary life with music and stories.
Chris started the Arhoolie Foundation in 1995 with the goal of cataloging and digitally preserving the Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings, the largest repository of its kind in the world. Our work now includes documentary film projects, museum and online exhibits, and direct support to artists, teachers, and other organizations working to uplift tradition-based music and its makers. Chris oversaw all of these activities and kept the fire lit with his dogged optimism, hard work, and dedication. As we round into our first calendar year without him, we remain as inspired and well-positioned as ever to carry on the work he started.
Over the past year, we’ve made great strides in preserving and sharing the riches of our archive. Thanks to funding from the National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasures Program and the National Endowment for the Humanities, we are actively processing the Chris Strachwitz Papers and have begun preparing our collections to upload to Quartex, the new, long-term home for our digital archive. Quartex will allow our online community to seamlessly explore our growing archive of audio, video, and digitized paper collections.
We continue to tell stories and document traditions. Each month, Frontera Collection Curator Juan Antonio Cuéllar produces two streaming broadcasts featuring music and stories from the collection: Frontera Collection ¡En Vivo!, on our YouTube Channel, and Raza, Accordions, and Rock, on the non-profit internet radio station dublab.
We have begun work on three original media projects: a Clifton Chenier centennial box set planned for release in 2025, a documentary film exploring Oakland’s vibrant Black music history, past and present, and a digital storytelling project on the life of Tejano Music pioneer Lydia Mendoza. And November saw the publication by Chronicle Books of Down Home Music: The Stories and Photographs of Chris Strachwitz. A true collaboration between Chris, writer Joel Selvin, and the Arhoolie Foundation, this book reflects the fierce creative spirit Chris maintained until the end of his life.
Of course, we could never do any of this work without the generous support of our funders. Special thanks to Ed and Mary Littlefield’s Sage Foundation, which has provided vital funding for operating expenses and emerging projects. We also want to thank the NEA, the Grammy Museum, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, and California Humanities for their much-needed help with our preservation and documentary efforts. Our work is also made possible by the generous support of individual donors. To all of you: thank you.
Over the next two years, we face the challenging task of relocating to a new facility while completing a full slate of ongoing archival and documentary projects. Your support is more crucial than ever. By making a monthly or one-time donation to meet our matching grants, following and sharing us on social media, or attending our in-person events, you can help continue Chris’s legacy of preserving, documenting, and celebrating tradition-based music in 2024 and beyond.
With thanks and gratitude for your support,
— The Arhoolie Foundation Staff and Board of Directors
Adam Machado, Executive Director
Juan Antonio Cuéllar, Frontera Collection Curator
Clark Noone, Archivist