South Arts announces inaugural Southern Cultural Treasures cohort

The initiative funds 17 BIPOC arts organizations across the Southeastern region with $6 million

South Arts is pleased to announce the Southern Cultural Treasures: a $6,000,000, four-year initiative supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) -led and -serving arts and cultural organizations throughout the Southeast.

Select works of pottery by the Catawba Nation displayed on billowy fabric

Pottery from the Catawba Nation.

This initial cohort is made up of 17 organizations that represent BIPOC arts and community-driven stewardship throughout the nine-state region that includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

“South Arts is honored to recognize and support these 17 organizations as Southern Cultural Treasures,” said South Arts’ President and CEO Susie Surkamer. “These groups push the boundaries of creative expression, anchor their local communities, and advance the arts in our nine state region. Our hope is that this initiative, with the help of these organizations, will foster a more equitable art community throughout the Southeastern region.”

South Arts first announced the Southern Cultural Treasures program in the fall of 2021. It complements the Ford Foundation’s America’s Cultural Treasures initiative, which aims to acknowledge and honor the diversity of artistic expression and excellence in America and provide critical funding to organizations that have made a significant impact on America’s cultural landscape.

“We are thrilled to partner with South Arts and honor these seventeen cultural institutions and their contributions to the regional landscape,” said Lane Harwell, program officer for creativity and free expression at the Ford Foundation. “We hope this investment will inspire more funders and patrons to support the diversity of arts organizations and expressions in the American South.”

Organizations throughout the nine-state region were given the opportunity to submit a letter of intent in late 2021. After review, those most closely aligned with the program goals were invited to complete a full application that went through a pair of national reviews before undergoing an interview process with South Arts’ leadership. These 17 exceptional nonprofits were chosen for their vital impact on their communities and helping to both define and preserve the uniqueness of the arts ecosystem in the region.

Among the 17 Southern Cultural Treasures are two South Carolina-based organizations: the Catawba Indian Nation in Rock Hill and Colour of Music, Inc. of Mount Pleasant. The remaining 15 groups are:

  • Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, Inc. of Birmingham
  • Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator of Miami
  • Teatro Avante of Miami
  • Art2Action Inc. of Tampa
  • Deep Center, Inc. of Savannah
  • Otis Redding Foundation of Macon
  • True Colors Theatre Company of Atlanta
  • Ballethnic Dance Company Inc. of East Point, Georgia
  • Asia Institute, Inc. of Louisville, Kentucky
  • Junebug Productions, Inc. of New Orleans
  • Efforts of Grace, Inc. of New Orleans
  • Mississippi Center for Cultural Production in Utica
  • B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center of Indianola, Mississippi
  • JazzArts Charlotte
  • Collage Dance Collective of Memphis

The 17 Southern Cultural Treasures were chosen after completing a vigorous application and interview process.

“These organizations make up a dynamic representation not only of their region and their communities, but also the burgeoning desire to grow and serve the cultural landscape of the South,” said Joy Young, Ph.D., South Arts’ vice president of programs. “Our duty at South Arts is to continue advocating for this kind of instrumental support, and we are confident that this cohort of Southern Cultural Treasures will help inspire these pursuits on a national scale.”

The program is expected to run through March 2025 and provide each organization with up to $300,000 of general operating grants distributed over three years, an additional project grant of up to $7,500, customized consultant services, networking, cohort building, and knowledge sharing.

Southern Cultural Treasures is designed to be a measure of sustainable support. By providing BIPOC-led and -serving organizations with tools and framework to establish their own agency and institutional narratives, the initiative encourages growth throughout the South—not only in the context of the arts, but also in the impact of surrounding communities as well.

“The Southern Cultural Treasures program is a testament to the creative excellence and resilience of artists and creative practitioners across the South,” said South Arts Board Chair Neil Barclay. “Through this initiative, the 17 selected organizations are not only representing their local artists and communities but also the cultural pulse of their nine states.”

South Arts’ Southern Cultural Treasures is supported by the Ford Foundation, with additional support from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the Infusion Fund, a partnership between the City of Charlotte, Foundation For The Carolinas and generous donors to support the arts and cultural sector, and the Zeist Foundation.

Please contact South Arts if you would like more information about opportunities to match this investment in select communities.

South Arts advances Southern vitality through the arts. The nonprofit regional arts organization was founded in 1975 to build on the South’s unique heritage and enhance the public value of the arts. South Arts’ work responds to the arts environment and cultural trends with a regional perspective. South Arts offers an annual portfolio of activities designed to support the success of artists and arts providers in the South, address the needs of Southern communities through impactful arts-based programs, and celebrate the excellence, innovation, value and power of the arts of the South. For more information, visit