Statewide Honor for Angkor Dance & Free Soil Arts

Here’s a press release about statewide recognition of two great Lowell-based organizations, Angkor Dance Troupe and Free Soil Arts Collective. 

Angkor Dance Troupe and Free Soil Arts Collective Selected for Statewide Initiative Supporting Community-Rooted Arts

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 communities.”

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

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

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 @BarrFdn.

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