New branch of funding extends grants to arts groups in the Southeast

Last year, when the Ford Foundation announced an initiative to donate more than $ 100 million to arts groups led by people of color, none of the 20 original recipients were in the Southeast.

So Suzette Surkamer, CEO of South Arts, a nearly 50-year-old nonprofit in Atlanta, emailed Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, offering to share some thoughts on the groups. artists from the region that she and her colleagues knew.

Now, South Arts is receiving $ 3 million from Ford and raising an additional $ 3 million from other donors to be distributed as grants to 12 to 15 arts groups led by people of color in the South East.

This program, called Southern Cultural Treasures, complements last year’s America’s Cultural Treasures initiative, in which Ford and other organizations and philanthropists donated $ 156 million to bring in more resources and of gratitude to what were described as “Black, Latinx, Asian and Native” groups.

“We have worked in the South and we know the deep needs of arts organizations in the South where there are fewer philanthropic resources,” said Margaret Morton, director of the Creativity and Free Expression team at Ford.

She added that “there is an incredibly rich culture” in the South that draws heavily on the history of black Americans there.

Formed in 1975, South Arts is one of several regional arts organizations that work in partnership with the National Endowment of the Arts to provide federal support for projects that benefit local communities.

Over the years, South Arts has helped local performing arts groups, but after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Gulf Coast in 2005, the organization also developed a national program to help cultural institutions grow. prepare for natural disasters and other crises.

Last year, as part of America’s Cultural Treasures, grants of $ 1-6 million were awarded to 20 groups considered nationwide, including the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center. in New York and the National Museum. of Mexican art in Chicago.

The Ford Foundation also announced last year that it would invest $ 35 million in regional grant-making initiatives that would include matching funds from partner foundations in cities like Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Houston and would be used. for grants “to cultural groups of color with an exceptional regional region.” or local importance.

Surkamer said many groups in his organization’s southeast region are “persistent and incredible,” often operating on shoestring budgets, but having a profound impact on their communities. For this reason, she added, the grant program could make a significant difference to recipients.

“It can give them money to operate on an ongoing basis,” she said, calling it “incredibly important.”

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