Arts and culture are central to how people and communities define themselves; they help actualize aspirations, voice grievances, and challenge fears; they clarify our understanding of ourselves and help us imagine who we might be.
And yet, art and artists that nestle deep in communities, observing our daily lives and acting as instruments for enriching them, have been under-resourced over the years. Without these women and men, and the organizations that sustain them, our communities would lack the resiliency to withstand or respond to stresses, preserve and celebrate their traditions, or interpret their rapidly changing world. Surdna aims to address that imbalance while celebrating courage, curiosity and creativity throughout the arts.
We’re inspired by the generosity of the artists and organizations that are introducing approaches from their creative practices to find ways of collaborating, innovating, and finding imaginative solutions to everyday problems. They’re building fields and fresh aesthetics—and revisiting old ones.
As our work in this area continues to take shape, we see it as a laboratory for innovation, like the explosive, gravity-defying performances of Elizabeth Streb’s “Action Mechanics,” which are produced as neighborhood gatherings where performers mingle with at-risk teens and their parents. Or, for deeply held, cherished traditions, like the Alaskan native artists working in materials like ivory, cedar and gut through the Anchorage Museum. Both are important: They offer roots in the past and visions of a more creative, inclusive future. Arts and culture are more than a valuable luxury; they are indispensable tools for helping communities define themselves—on their own terms.