Thriving Cultures

The gift of time. In 2012, the Thriving Cultures program participated in a strategic planning process that afforded us the great luxury of time and resources to reflect on the program’s accomplishments, to connect with the people and communities we care about, and to dream about how we might best support them. The year-long collaboration with Surdna Board members and staff, grantee partners, and key advisors supported thoughtful refinement and creative solutions toward the implementation of new initiatives.

While the business of grantmaking continued — represented in this report by our list of grants awarded — we moved through the year excited by the possibilities of our evolving work. The refinement of the Thriving Cultures program aspired to produce funding priorities that would connect each contour of the program with the Surdna mission to foster just and sustainable communities…guided by the principles of social justice. To accomplish this, we began defining Thriving Cultures’ role in support of social and cultural equity toward our goal of demonstrating the deep and lasting impacts artists, arts, and culture have on a community’s prosperity and sustainability. Our work was informed by the changing demographics taking place nationwide, by communities undergoing profound change, and by emerging models of multidisciplinary programming in enterprising arts organizations embedded in diverse communities around the country.

The current conditions in the funding field point to the enormous impact Thriving Cultures could have in supporting key interest areas related to — teens, community design, economic development, and social change — in the context of arts and culture centered community change and growth. We are exploring the intersections of our grantmaking with the Strong Local Economies and Sustainable Environments programs. And throughout, we are guided by the opportunity to work in support of those communities in need, and those places that are often characterized as marginalized, underserved, or vulnerable. Our approach will leverage their assets — social capital, deep history, and cultural practice — and recognize and help to reverse the inequities — lack of access to fair policies, lack of private and public support — that challenge their ability to thrive. In this way Thriving Cultures can demonstrate the role of arts and culture in building healthy and sustainable communities.

In the description of Thriving Cultures new funding areas below, you will see that to meet our ambitious task, we honor and learn from the past while reframing with an eye to the future.

Teens Artistic and Cultural Advancement

We believe that art and cultural training programs can help young people achieve their educational and career goals, and catalyze change in their communities.

The Thriving Cultures Program therefore supports programs that successfully connect teens to artistically rigorous and culturally relevant programs that equip them with practical and life-enhancing skills. We value programs that prepare young, emerging artists to be creative and innovative leaders in their communities.

Community Engaged Design

Frequently, cities and developers fail to engage the community in design efforts that integrate local priorities, values, and concerns. That’s why Surdna supports the field of “community engaged design” — where community members contribute to decisions, policies, and projects that impact their lives We believe that artists, architects, and designers can play an important role in translating community values into design solutions that will benefit the communities where they live and work.

Thriving Cultures seeks to share and replicate the best practices of community engaged design. We seek efforts where artists, designers, and architects engage community members in decisions that will result in community benefit and social impact. We acknowledge that design and development is not neutral and that collaborative community design involves innovative partnerships that provide under-represented communities with the design assistance they need to maximize their own benefit from development dollars being spent in their communities.

The Thriving Cultures Program supports ways to share and replicate the best practices of community engaged design. We support efforts where artists, designers, and architects engage community members in decisions relating to product design, land use, public space, civic infrastructure, and urban planning.

Artists and Economic Development

Strengthening the role of arts, culture, and creativity is essential to a community’s economic growth, cultural vibrancy, and resiliency. Efforts around the country are demonstrating how artists and cultural organizations can contribute to economic development.

We understand that arts and culture organizations bring jobs, tax dollars and tourism revenue to local communities. However, artists and creative workers often struggle financially and lack the resources to build their businesses. Just like other successful enterprises and small businesses, artists can overcome these obstacles if they have access to training and financing. These supports increase their ability to be effective economic contributors to their communities.

The Thriving Cultures Program supports efforts that provide artists with business training and financial resources that enable them to be, and create, valuable economic assets for their communities.

Artists Engaging in Social Change

Artists and culture bearers give voice to cultural identity and are often powerful catalysts for social change. They not only carry forth cultural traditions but also create new traditions rooted in their community and identity. By contributing to the cultural richness of their communities, they strengthen and embolden them.

Thriving Cultures values artists and culture bearers who nurture, sustain, and grow our communities’ cultural traditions, which reflect the identities and beliefs of its people. Furthermore, we understand that artists can help foster discourse and influence a community’s social change goals.

The Thriving Cultures Program therefore supports programs that help artists and culture bearers deepen our cultural understanding or help communities achieve social change.

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