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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.

[caption id="attachment_45781" align="alignright" width="301"]Select works of pottery by the Catawba Nation displayed on billowy fabric Pottery from the Catawba Nation.[/caption] 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 www.southarts.org.  

Jason Rapp

IAAM gets third round of support from Ford Foundation

Grant to assist Gullah storytelling, more

The International African American Museum has received a grant of $500,000 from the Ford Foundation that will support its inaugural year of operation, including exhibition installations and early programming, genealogy workshops, and Gullah storytelling programs.

This is the third grant from Ford to the museum since 2017, and it brings the foundation’s total gifts to nearly $1 million. With opening set for late 2022, this investment comes at a crucial time. IAAM President and CEO Dr. Tonya Matthews called 2022 a "momentum year." “As we head down the finish line of artifact and exhibition installation, we are also launching several programs and beginning to connect with educators across the country while we design our K-12 curriculum,” Matthews said. “We are only able to do this with the vision and support of organizations like the Ford Foundation. We are incredibly grateful for their continuing support.” Exhibitions will explore the real human cost and suffering of slavery, but they will also honor ancestors; celebrate cultures, like Gullah Geechee, that were forged in the crucible of the antebellum South; explore the cultural impact that began in Charleston and spread across the U.S. and the Caribbean; and then connect descendants to their ancestors through an award-winning genealogical research center. “We are honored to work with the International African American Museum and ensure that the history of enslaved Africans is preserved for years to come,” said Margaret Morton, director of creativity and free expression for the Ford Foundation. “The museum will be a critical resource for researchers and visitors alike, and we look forward to seeing the lasting impact its programming will provide.” Ford’s support for the International African American Museum will provide visitors—nationally and internationally—an opportunity to experience the African American journey at one of the most historic sites in the nation: the former Gadsden's Wharf, the point of disembarkation for so many enslaved Africans. Matthews is eager to open the museum doors to visitors. "The International African American Museum is excited to have the Ford Foundation among its partners. Both institutions strive to ensure that all individuals, and their stories, receive just and equitable treatment. The stories and artifacts within the museum, alongside the connections made because of them, are being intentionally curated with this understanding. The International African American Museum will prompt difficult conversations, tell a complete history, and spark action to build a more perfect union,” she said.
The International African American Museum (IAAM) explores cultures and knowledge systems retained and adapted by Africans in the Americas and the diverse journeys and achievements of these individuals and their descendants in South Carolina, the United States, and throughout the African Diaspora. IAAM is a champion of authentic, empathetic storytelling of American history and is thus one of the nation’s newest platforms for the disruption of institutionalized racism as it evolves today. Set to open in late 2022, IAAM is positioned to honor the untold stories of the African American journey from Charleston, S.C., at the historically sacred site of Gadsden’s Wharf and beyond. For more information, please visit iaamuseum.org or call 843-872-5352.
The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization with assets currently valued at $16 billion. For more than 85 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the Foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Jason Rapp

South Arts announces $6 million for ‘Southern Cultural Treasures’

A new program with help from the Ford Foundation

Text graphic that reads "Southern Cultural Treasures: A program of South Arts"


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

The application process opens today, and cohort members will be announced in May 2022.The initiative is presented in partnership with the Ford Foundation, which is supporting this project with a $3,000,000 matching gift. To maximize the impact of Southern Cultural Treasures, South Arts is currently seeking additional funding partners. Designed to foster lasting stability and resiliency of arts communities throughout the region, Southern Cultural Treasures will support a cohort of 12-15 organizations between May 2022 and March 2025 by offering:
  • general operating grants of up to $300,000;
  • project grants of up to $7,500;
  • and a variety of networking and development opportunities designed to elevate and champion arts communities throughout South Arts’ nine-state region. By providing critical funding and a roadmap for future growth, Southern Cultural Treasures is an exciting new opportunity for the arts in the region.
“Southern Cultural Treasures is a turning point for the arts in the South,” South Arts’ President and CEO Susie Surkamer said“The initiative allows for a more equitable art community throughout the nine states in which South Arts operates, and furthers our mission of advancing Southern vitality through the arts.” Southern Cultural Treasures is a complementary program to America’s Cultural Treasures, a Ford Foundation-led initiative 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, despite historically limited resources. As Ford’s regional partner for the U.S. South, South Arts brings five decades of arts stewardship throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. “The Ford Foundation is proud to join South Arts to honor and celebrate the rich diversity of artistic excellence across the region and advance our shared vision for a just South,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “We’re grateful for South Arts’ expertise and intimate knowledge of the Southeast and look forward to working with them over the coming years.” Southern Cultural Treasures is designed to have far-reaching, lasting benefits. By providing BIPOC-led and -serving organizations with financial resources alongside a framework that establishes long-term sustainability and institution-building, the initiative will encourage growth throughout the South—not only in arts circles, but in the surrounding communities as well. “BIPOC arts organizations are integral to communities throughout the region, no matter their size, history, or area of focus. By funding them, not only are we working to correct historic disparities, we’re empowering the next generation of singers, dancers, media artists, painters, writers—and everyone else,” South Arts Vice President of Programming Joy Young, Ph.D. said. “Only by creating a more equitable landscape can we truly unlock the potential of the arts, and the South.” Organizations throughout South Arts’ nine-state region are strongly encouraged to apply. To apply, eligible organizations should submit a Letter of Intent to participate by December 10, 2021 through the South Arts website. South Arts will hold a webinar discussing the program on November 12, 2021. After review, those most closely aligned with the program goals will be invited to submit a full application. Eligibility information, webinar registration, and application guidelines can be accessed by visiting southarts.org/sct or calling 404.874.7244.
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 www.southarts.org.

Jason Rapp

Is tech a creative medium for artists?

NEA + Knight, Ford foundations report says yes


The National Endowment for the Arts announces the release of the report Tech as Art: Supporting Artists Who Use Technology as a Creative Medium, the result of a two-year field scan, an initiative of the Arts Endowment in collaboration with the John S. and James L.  Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

The field scan and report explore the multi-faceted practices of artists who engage with digital technologies in both the creative and functional aspects of their work. The report also looks at the training and exhibition infrastructure that tech-centered artists have developed to pursue their creative practices, and diagnoses a critical need for funding to advance the field. A key finding of the study is that even with the willingness of audiences to move to digital spaces for arts and cultural programming during the pandemic, many cultural organizations lack capacity and the resources to adequately support the growing needs of tech-centered artists and their audiences. At the same time, these artists have demonstrated their unique ability to respond creatively to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic by engaging with audiences and responding to calls for greater equity and inclusion. “Tech-centered artists can be invaluable partners for leaders in the arts and non-arts sectors alike,” said National Endowment for the Arts Acting Chairman Ann Eilers. “Not only are equity and inclusion increasingly embedded in their artistic practice, but they also explore ethical issues around technology, such as data privacy and artificial intelligence, presenting complex ideas through a creative and accessible lens.”

A virtual launch event celebrating the culmination of this work featured arts funders and artist/technologists discussing key findings of the report. Panelists for the virtual event were Refik Anadol, Amelia Winger Bearskin, Stephanie Dinkins, Ruby Lerner, Omari Rush, and Eleanor Savage with moderator Hrag Vartanian. The event will be archived and available on the Media Arts impact page.


In addition to featuring more than a hundred artists and organizations in the report, Tech as Art includes nine case studies offering a more in-depth look at leading tech-focused artists and practitioners. Case study artists are 3-Legged Dog, Refik Anadol, Design I/O, Stephanie Dinkins, Darcy Neal, Processing Foundation, Scatter/DepthKit, Lance Weiler, and Amelia Winger-Bearskin. Videos created from the case studies are in a YouTube playlist.  Finally, the recommendations in the report are expanded upon by ten commissioned essays. Key findings from the report include:
  • Code, computation, data, and tool-building are fundamental to tech-centered artists, enabling them to create works across artistic forms and contexts.
  • Because the field is so diverse and dynamic, more traditional arts organizations and funders often have trouble engaging with tech-centered artistic practicesSince these artists create projects within and between virtual and physical spaces, they require distinct approaches to presentation, public engagement, accessibility, and archiving.
  • Tech-centered artists have successfully established peer organizations, regional hubs, exhibition spaces, festivals, information networks, and academic departments across the United States. However, there are also significant resource gaps which inhibit the growth of artistic and professional development.
  • Career pathways for tech-centered artists are highly varied, though as a group these workers encounter many of the same obstacles as artists in general. Despite formal education, tech-centered artists describe themselves as largely self-taught and reliant on artist-founded organizations, community hubs, and online resources.
The report’s recommendations include:
  • Expanding technical expertise and capacity among cultural organizations working with tech-centered artists.
  • Reviewing programs and outreach plans from grant makers, arts service or presenting organizations, and traditional arts institutions to ensure that funding program guidelines and documentation requirements align with, and welcome, tech-focused artists and projects.
  • Lifting barriers to collaboration across arts and non-arts sectors to encourage relationships to exchange information, seed partnerships, and launch initiatives.
  • Embedding technology assets in the broader arts and cultural infrastructure to address the lack of funding for digital capacity-building; existing digital divides across geography, ethnicity, race, and gender; and inadequate access to high-speed internet.
  • Increasing project development, presentation, and exhibition opportunities.
  • Deepening public understanding of the value and impact of tech-focused artists by conducting further research and education that supports greater public recognition of artists’ creative approaches, innovations, and contributions.
In addition to publishing this report, the Arts Endowment has deepened its commitment to supporting activities at the intersection of arts and technology through the agency’s major funding program, Grants for Arts Projects. In the Media Arts discipline, organizations from any artistic discipline can apply for support of arts projects that use new media, creative code, and emergent forms. The Arts Endowment also provides technical assistance to prospective applicants and connects tech-centered artists with other grant makers, arts organizations, policymakers, educators, and tech companies.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more.

About the Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit www.kf.org

Jason Rapp