Southern Artists
for Social Change


Photo: Jalisa Roberts, The Cocoon

The National Performance Network’s new Southern Artists for Social Change program will provide $25,000 project grants to artists and culture bearers of color living, working, and engaging in social change in urban, rural, and tribal communities of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Southern Artists for Social Change

NPN’s Southern Artists for Social Change envisions a world in which people of color living, working, and organizing for community change in the South have the power, resources, and opportunities to thrive. NPN’s mission is to contribute to a more just and equitable world by building artists’ power; advancing racial and cultural justice in the arts; fostering relationships between individuals, institutions, and communities; and working toward systems change in arts and philanthropy.

Southern Artists for Social Change is part of the Surdna Foundation’s “Radical Imagination for Racial Justice” initiative, supporting civic practice projects that bring artists of color into collaboration and co-design with community partners and local residents of color around a community-defined vision. This three-year pilot program will award its first grants in 2020.

Details

Eligibility
  • Artists and culture bearers who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC) living, working, and engaging in social change in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Individual artists as well as artist collectives may apply.
  • Projects should (1) identify community challenges or needs, (2) imagine a different future, and (3) practice, test, and/or design for approaches toward that future that center racial justice.
  • While projects may be artist-driven, projects should include community members (individuals, agencies, organizations) as collaborators who share in decision-making, shaping the project and project outcomes.
  • Grants may support any phase of a project (research, development, production, etc.), including new initiatives or ongoing work, and a portion of funding should directly support the artist(s).

A select set of grantees may have the opportunity for a Participatory Action Research (PAR) component that focuses on a grantee project, in collaboration with the Highlander Research and Education Center, Othering and Belonging Institute, and/or Southwest Folklife Alliance.

Grant Terms
  • $25,000 grants per project for one year
  • Awardees may be eligible for continued funding in 2021 and/or 2022
Timeline & Process

Please note: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the timeline and process will likely change, though our intent is still to make the grants in September and October so artists have the resources they need to move their work forward.

April–August 2020: Conversation of intent

  • During this time, we invite any member of urban, rural, and tribal communities in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi to share projects and ideas that may be eligible for funding. NPN staff will visit communities throughout the three states and learn about the work community members are doing and the challenges they are confronting.
  • To schedule a phone, video, or in-person meeting, please contact Program Coordinator, Steffani Clemons, at sclemons@npnweb.org or 504-595-8008 ext. 708.
  • We welcome Letters of Intent (LOIs) at any point in this period (see below for LOI questions).

August 1, 2020: LOI initial deadline (see below for LOI questions)

  • Responses to the LOI questions may be submitted in writing, in video, or via a phone interview.

August 2020: Review period

  • In August, a group of community members will review materials, follow up with applicants, and make recommendations for next steps.
  • Projects that include activities that may engage Participatory Action Research will be reviewed by our research team collaborators.
  • Applicants will be invited to submit final materials for consideration.

September 2020: Grant awards

  • Final materials will be reviewed, funding decisions made, and grants contracted by the end of September.

2021 TBD: Face-to-face gatherings

  • Grant awardees are invited to attend future NPN gatherings; NPN will provide registration and travel subsidies to awardees. These gatherings offer opportunities for attendees to share their work, expand connections, and build relationships with other cultural workers committed to racial justice. NPN's annual conference has been canceled for 2020, but we will share opportunities for other gatherings in 2021.

Definitions

The Surdna Foundation uses the Center for Performance and Civic Practice’s definition of “civic practice” as work that brings artists into collaboration and co-design with community partners and local residents around a community-defined vision. Our peers at Alternate ROOTS define “community-based art for social change” as creative expression that emerges from communities of people working together to improve their individual and collective circumstances.

Borrowing again from our colleagues at Alternate ROOTS, we define communities as groups of people who share a geography, historical or ethnic traditions, and/or a belief or spirit. NPN’s Southern Artists for Social Change program will support projects that take a community-centered approach that includes authentic partnerships between artists and community members and in which those closest to a community’s challenges have the power to make change. We ask applicants to define for yourselves the specific community you are engaging, your relationship to that community, and other community members’ roles in the project.

A member of a community who practices that community’s artistic or creative expressions. Knowledge of these arts or skills are most often passed from person to person within the cultural group, and the art itself expresses the community’s values or aesthetics.

Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a community-centered process of investigation and empowerment. The three components in its name define PAR’s work as well as its values: Those most impacted by areas of concern (“participatory”) engage in collective knowledge-building (“research”) to advance a vision and movement for transformation (“action”).

Letter of Intent

We welcome submissions in the following ways:

  • Online

    Complete the online LOI form and submit

  • Email

    Complete the LOI questions in an email or Word document and email to Program Coordinator Steffani Clemons at sclemons@npnweb.org

  • Mail

    Complete the LOI questions and mail to:

      Program Coordinator Steffani Clemons
      National Performance Network
      PO Box 56698
      New Orleans, LA 70156

  • Video

    Respond to the LOI questions in a video and email the file or link to Steffani Clemons at sclemons@npnweb.org or contact Program Coordinator Steffani Clemons at sclemons@npnweb.org or 504-595-8008 ext. 708 to schedule a video interview.

  • Phone

    Schedule a phone interview to respond to the LOI questions. To schedule, please contact Program Coordinator Steffani Clemons at sclemons@npnweb.org or 504-595-8008 ext. 708.

Letter of Intent Questions

Please note: You are not evaluated on writing style, grammar, or complete phrasing. Brief answers are welcome—respond in the way you are comfortable.

1. Project Summary

Provide a brief statement that answers the following

  • What community challenge does your project address?
  • What would a more just future look like, relative to this challenge?
  • How does your project work toward that?

 

Tell us more about this work. These questions are just prompts, and you should feel free to tell us what you want us to know in your own words. You may include links or other existing materials that respond to these questions rather than writing new responses.

2. Project Overview

  • Provide a brief general description of the project
  • Is the project new or ongoing? If ongoing, when did the project start and where are you in the process now?
  • Does the project focus on a process, on creating a product or outcome, or both?

3. Project Context

  • What is the community this project centers? How would you define or describe that community?
  • What specific community challenge does this project respond to?
  • How does the project advance racial justice?

4. Project Collaborators and Partners

  • What community members are part of this project and what are their roles? (These can be individuals, organizations, agencies, etc.)
  • How do these collaborations and partnerships advance racial justice?
  • What is your relationship with these community partners? Is there a history of collaboration among the partners?
  • How are the vision and decision-making of the project shared among the partners?

Complete the online LOI form

Examples

Below are examples of projects that (1) identify community challenges or needs, (2) imagine a different future, and (3) practice, test, and/or design strategies toward the imagined future that center racial justice.

La Imaginistas (Brownsville, TX): Hacemos La Ciudad (We Make the City)

Hacemos La Ciudad (We Make the City) is a comprehensive civic reimagining initiative that examines and questions how colonial ideology informs contemporary life by warping traditional planning processes and infusing the everyday with the magical.

  1. Community challenge: Contemporary civic life, architecture, and the infrastructure of our cities is informed by colonial ideology.
  2. Imagined future: A decolonized civic landscape, where community members develop their own more equitable version of the city.
  3. Strategies: Develop an artistic representation reflecting the dreams and ambitions of Brownsville community members, and a comprehensive call to action with suggestions for how to work collectively to materialize those dreams.

Design Studio for Social Innovation (Boston, MA): Public Kitchen

As public infrastructures—hospitals, water, schools, transportation, etc.—are privatized, the Public Kitchen takes a stab at going in the reverse direction.

  1. Community challenge: Privatization of public infrastructure does not serve the public good.
  2. Imagined future: More vibrant public infrastructures that can improve the quality of our lives through social and food justice.
  3. Strategies: Challenge the public’s own feelings that “public” means poor, broken down, poorly run, and “less than” private; engage communities in claiming public space, the social, and food justice; and make a new case for public infrastructures through creating ones that don’t exist.

Southern Artists for Social Change is part of the Surdna Foundation’s “Radical Imagination for Racial Justice” initiative, supporting civic practice projects that bring artists of color into collaboration and co-design with community partners and local residents of color around a community-defined vision. This three-year pilot program will award its first grants in 2020.