top of page

Angkor Dance Troupe and Free Soil Arts Collective Selected for Statewide Initiative

Free Soil Arts Collective ( and Angkor Dance Troupe

( were selected to participate in the Powering Cultural Futures initiative –

as announced on October 20, 2021, by the Barr Foundation and the Community Foundation of

Western Massachusetts ((

communities). A collaboration between these foundations, this six-year initiative connects and

supports 15 arts organizations rooted in Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC)

communities across Massachusetts.

We will receive operating funds as well as risk capital for growth through grants awarded by the

Community Foundation via its BIPOC Arts Equity Fund. Even more importantly, each group will

participate in efforts to build capacity and strengthen the arts ecosystem in Massachusetts,

particularly for BIPOC communities.

“The Community Foundation is honored to establish the BIPOC Arts Equity Fund, and to invest

in the Angkor Dance Troupe and Free Soil Arts Collective as a grant recipient,” said Katie Allan

Zobel, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. “We know

that Massachusetts is more vibrant when it embraces all voices, and we view this Fund as a

needed vehicle for donors statewide who want to invest in BIPOC artists, art forms, and


With support from the Barr Foundation, the Free Soil Arts Collective and Angkor Dance Troupe

will join with peers from other participating organizations in a learning journey, connecting over

the next six years to share approaches, challenges, and successes. Throughout this timeframe

we will have access to consultants who can assist our planning and organizational

development. The lessons and insights gained through the experience of all initiative

participants will be shared with BIPOC networks and donors throughout the state.

“The Angkor Dance Troupe and the Free Soil Arts Collective do important work to bring artists

and cultural expression to the center of community life,” said Giles Li, senior program officer for

Arts & Creativity at the Barr Foundation. “They are poised to pursue a next level of impact and

resilience and to help power the future of BIPOC arts in Massachusetts.”

“The organizations in this initiative are among many across Massachusetts who are true

treasures in their communities,” added San San Wong, director of the Arts & Creativity program

at Barr. “They have trusted leaders who embrace arts to speak powerfully about the

experiences, struggles, triumphs, and dreams of community members. We look forward to

learning from these partners, and to circulating knowledge that can contribute to a more

equitable, well resourced arts sector.”

Tim Thou, Founder of Angkor Dance Troupe, stated, “On behalf of the Angkor Dance Troupe, I

would like to express my sincere thank you to all the trustees and staff of the Barr Foundation

for giving excellent support of our continued preservation of Cambodian culture and arts for the

next generation in Lowell and to communities across states for many years to come.”

“This multi-year investment from the Barr Foundation and Community Foundation of Western

Massachusetts is transformative for our organization”, said Christa Brown of the Free Soil Arts

Collective. “We look forward to deepening partnerships with BIPOC-led arts organizations

throughout the region, and building capacity for our impact over the coming years.”

Representing a range of ethnic and racial communities, geographies, art disciplines, and

organizational characteristics, the 15 organizations participating in the Powering Cultural

Futures initiative are:

● 3rd Eye Youth Empowerment, New Bedford

● Abilities Dance Boston, Boston

● Angkor Dance Troupe, Lowell

● Aquinnah Cultural Center, Aquinnah

● Castle of our Skins, Boston

● Danza Orgánica, Boston

● Elevated Thought, Lawrence

● Free Soil Arts Collective, Lowell

● Front Porch Arts Collective, Boston

● Hyde Square Task Force, Boston

● Jean Appolon Expressions, Cambridge

● Ohketeau Cultural Center, Ashfield

● Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts, Worcester

● Teatro Chelsea, Chelsea

● The Loop Lab, Cambridge

For more information about the Powering Cultural Futures initiative, visit

About Angkor Dance Troupe:

Angkor Dance Troupe’s (ADT) mission is to connect communities through the preservation,

education, and innovation of Cambodian performing arts. ADT provides instruction, preserves

Cambodian history, and spreads knowledge through its teaching of traditional Cambodian

dance, music, history, and the Khmer language. Through these classes and the high-quality

performances by its dancers, ADT maintains the integrity of Cambodian performing arts and

traditions while adapting to societal changes, and developing the next generation of dancers,

teachers, mentors, and leaders. For more information, please visit

Photo: Angkor Dance Troupe

About the Free Soil Arts Collective:

The mission of Free Soil Arts Collective is to amplify and strengthen the voices of artists of color

in the Merrimack Valley. Frustrated by having to travel to Boston or other cities for work and to

experience BIPOC arts, Lowell-based theater director and actor Christa Brown founded the

organization in 2019. Investing in a network of local artists helps create more opportunities for

Black and other BIPOC artists to invest in their craft, develop new work, and share with the

public in the place they call home. Lowell has a majority BIPOC population, with diverse ethnic

communities and different immigration experiences. Free Soil believes theater and other artistic

expression can lift up voices from these communities to create a place of belonging for those

who are most marginalized. Free Soil’s work resonates locally, and the organization is a leading

voice in the changing cultural community of Lowell. For more information, please visit

Photo by Gilbert Gandia

About the Barr Foundation:

The Barr Foundation’s mission is to invest in human, natural, and creative potential, serving as

thoughtful stewards and catalysts.

Based in Boston, Barr focuses regionally, and selectively engages nationally,

working in partnership with nonprofits, foundations, the public sector, and civic and business

leaders to elevate the arts, advance solutions for climate change, and connect all

students to success in high school and beyond.

Founded in 1997, Barr now has assets in excess of $3 billion, and has contributed more

than $1 billion to charitable causes. For more information, visit or follow


About the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts:

Founded in 1991, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts seeks to enrich the

quality of life for the people of our region and champion community philanthropy. With assets

totaling $200 million, the Community Foundation is an anchor organization for the three counties

bordering the Connecticut River in western Massachusetts (Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin

Counties) and serves as a resource, catalyst, and coordinator for charitable activities. To learn

more, visit

Media Contacts

Free Soil Arts Collective Contact:

Christa Brown

Founder and Executive Director


Angkor Dance Troupe Contact:

Sue J. Kim

President, Board of Directors


Barr Foundation Media Contact:

Mary Chalifour

Acting Director of Communications


Community Foundation or Western Massachusetts Media Contact:

Emma Mesa-Melendez

Director of Communications



bottom of page