The Southern Cultural Treasures initiative is modeled on the Ford Foundation’s “America’s Cultural Treasures” initiative. This national initiative aims to support arts and culture groups “that have been historically marginalized, underfunded and underrepresented in the narrative of American culture.”
South Arts’ purpose in developing the Southern Cultural Treasures Program (SCT) is to acknowledge and honor the diversity of artistic expression and excellence of arts and cultural organizations led by and serving people of color in the South Arts region.
Through this initiative, South Arts will provide critical funding and resources that lead BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) organizations to stability and success, and enhance their ability to expand their impact on the regional cultural landscape. South Arts has, through a generous matching gift from the Ford Foundation, a unique opportunity to leverage funding to catalyze increased funding support for arts and cultural organizations led by and serving people of color in the South Arts region.
In “Not Just Money: Equity Issues in Philanthropy,” published by the Helicon Collaborative in 2017, Helicon identified that the existing systems and structures have constant traits. On the one hand, they promulgate financial sustainability of White and European arts and cultural organizations while, on the other hand, they prevent the same benefits to arts and cultural groups serving communities of color. In 2021, the same systemic inequities hold true as the effects of the pandemic bring this disparity in sharp relief. It will require meaningful investments over sustained periods to help BIPOC led and serving arts and cultural organizations grow their capacity and financial reserves to overcome these historic challenges.
The goal is to provide financial capital and other resources to BIPOC led and serving arts and cultural organizations, such that these organizations are positioned to achieve self-determined success.
South Arts envisions a future in which everyone has equitable access to the arts regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, ability, geography, religion, and thinking/communication styles. Only by creating a more equitable arts landscape can we meet South Arts’ mission of advancing Southern vitality through the arts. This initiative addresses the South Arts strategic goal of advancing impactful arts-based programs that recognize and address trends and evolving needs of a wide range of communities in the South.
Southern Cultural Treasure Organizational Characteristics
A Southern Cultural Treasure grantee is expected to represent artistry, cultural heritage, and creative expression of their respective communities, be located within the 9-state South Arts region, and have one or more of the following characteristics:
- Mission statement is primarily focused on the arts or cultural heritage creative expression in any arts discipline(s).
- Legacy of stewarding and sustaining artistry, cultural heritage, or creative expression rooted in a community of color
- History of producing or presenting artists/creatives of color in performances, exhibitions, or other artistic or cultural production
- Preservation of artistic and/or cultural heritage traditions rooted in a community of color
- Positive impact on the community of color served
For the purposes of this program, the term “community of color” can refer to a group of people, geography, or community/communities of creative practice. The term “BIPOC led and serving arts and cultural organizations” are defined as at least 51% of the staff and/or board is composed of communities of color and more than 51% of the organizations’ activities are related to and/or engage communities of color.
Important Dates & Deadlines
- Letter of Interest to Participate process opens: November 3, 2021
- Informational Webinar: November 12, 2021 from 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. ET | Watch a recording of the webinar
- Deadline to Submit a Letter of Interest to Participate: December 10, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. ET
- Letter of Interest review date(s): December 17, 2021 - January 21, 2022
- Open Full Application Invitation to Apply: February 1, 2022
- Close Full Application Invitation to Apply: March 4, 2022
- Applicant review/interview dates: March 14 – April 30, 2022
- Award announcement: July 6, 2022
South Arts reserves the right to adjust dates and deadlines.
Please review the full eligibility information and guidelines below to learn more about the Southern Cultural Treasures program before beginning your Letter of Interest to Participate.
Grant Award Selection Process
The Southern Cultural Treasures initiative will utilize a three-step selection process. South Arts will first accept an online Letter of Interest to Participate (LOIP) from any eligible and interested BIPOC led and serving arts and cultural organization. Following a review from staff and other stakeholders, up to 40 LOIPs most closely aligning with the program goals and organizational characteristics will be invited to participate in step-two, the full application.
The full application will consist of narrative questions about the organization. Following a review from staff and other stakeholders, approximately 20 organizations from (among the 40) will be invited for the third step, an interview. After the interviews, a cohort of 12-15 organizations will be selected as Southern Cultural Treasures.
Participation Eligibility and Expectations
The following is a list of expectations of applicants who want to participate in this initiative:
- Located/reside/operate in South Arts’ nine-state region of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Tennessee
- Mission is primarily focused on the arts or cultural heritage creative expression in any arts discipline(s).
- Have stakeholders (i.e., audience, organization leadership, and Board) with a high-level of BIPOC representation. (BIPOC led and serving arts and cultural organizations are defined as at least 51% of the staff and/or board is composed of communities of color and more than 51% of the organizations’ activities engage communities of color
- Hold a 501(c)3 tax status in good standing or work with a fiscal agent
South Arts welcomes letters of interest from BIPOC led and serving arts and cultural organizations to include but not limited to:
- Performing arts, including dance, music, theater, musical theater and opera;
- Literary arts, including fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry;
- Visual arts, including craft, drawing, experimental, painting, photography, sculpture, mixed media;
- Film or media;
- Traditional and folk arts, including music, craft, storytelling, dance; Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary forms; and,
- Artistic and/or cultural production, presentation, or preservation production rooted in communities of color.
Ineligible organizations include:
- Federal agencies or local departments of federal agencies
- Educational pre-school and K-12 schools or private K-12 institutions
- For profit entities
- Local or state governmental organizations
- Colleges or Universities