The National Performance Network’s Southern Artists for Social Change program provides $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.
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 pilot program awarded its first grants in 2020. To see the announcement of the 2020 Southern Artists for Social Change cohort and to learn about their projects, click here.
The deadline to apply for Cohort 4 will be announced in 2023.
Click here to watch a recording of the information session hosted on June 17, 2021. This webinar to provide details to potential applicants about the Southern Artists for Social Change grant and goes over the Letter of Intent.
Southern Artists for Social Change is a program of the National Performance Network and is supported with funding from the Surdna Foundation’s “Radical Imagination for Racial Justice” Initiative.
Resources & Dates
2023 Southern Artists for Social Change Deadline – to be announced
- 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.
- Artists and culture bearers with demonstrated practice in any discipline.
- Individual artists as well as artist collectives may apply. Artist collectives must have a demonstrated history of creating new work collectively for at least two years.
- Applicants must be 18 years of age or older by application deadline.
- Applicants must be AL, LA, or MS residents for at least five consecutive years at the time of both application and payment and must provide a valid state ID.
- Projects should demonstrate a civic practice process to (1) identify specific community challenges or needs, (2) imagine a different future for the community, and (3) practice, test, or design approaches toward that future that center racial justice.
- While projects may be artist-driven, projects should include at least two 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).
Not eligible at this time:
- Nonprofit organizations
- 2020, 2021, or 2022 NPN Creation Fund Recipients
- Artists who are high school students, or who are college or graduate students enrolled in a degree-granting program, at the time of application or during the period of the grant
- Current NPN staff, board of directors, or panelists
- Curators and researchers
- $25,000 grants per project for one year
Grantees must be available for an orientation session and participate throughout the 2021–2022 grant period in cohort meetings and other gatherings.
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.
- April 4–July 29, 2022
Open Call for Letter of Intent (LOI)
- August 31, 2022 5:00 pm CST
Deadline for LOI
Q: I am a recipient of NPN's Take Notice Fund. Can I still apply for SA4SC?
A: Yes, you are eligible for this opportunity and can apply.
Q: I am a student currently enrolled in a degree program. Can I apply for this grant?
A: No, artists who are high school students or who are enrolled in college or graduate school degree programs at the time of application or during the grant period are not eligible.
Q: I am a nonprofit organization based in one of the eligible states. Can I apply for this grant?
A: This funding opportunity is only available for individual artists and collectives (including tribal groups). Artists/collectives who are organized as a nonprofit organization or other entity, please contact our Community Liaison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504-595-8008 ext. 715 to determine eligibility.
Q: We would like to apply as a collective. What are the terms?
A: A team of two or more artists may apply if they have a documented history of creating and presenting work as a team for at least two consecutive years. Collective members should apply with one application, and funds must be distributed equally amongst members. Members of a collective may not apply individually for the same project, and members should meet the eligibility requirements individually.
Q: Do you provide technical assistance during the application process?
A: Yes, we can assist you with completing an application. You must schedule a phone interview with a staff member to complete the application questions. To schedule a call, please contact our Community Liaison at email@example.com or 504-595-8008 ext. 715.
Q: I prefer to answer the application through video response. Is that possible?
A: Yes, just record your responses and paste a link with your audio or video responses (YouTube, Soundcloud, etc.) into the corresponding fields. Make sure you state the question you are responding to at the beginning of your video.
Q: Do I need a fiscal sponsor to apply for this grant?
A: No, you do not need to have a fiscal sponsorship to receive this grant.
Q: What are the tax considerations should I receive this grant?
A: NPN will report this award as income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You will receive a form 1099 from NPN.
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”).
How to Apply
We have recently updated our grants management system and are using the SmartSimple platform to accept Southern Artists for Social Change applications. When using the platform, please let us know if you encounter any glitches or if something does not work the way it should. We are still learning the system, too, and will be happy to help troubleshoot and figure out any problems you might have.
If you already have an account in our system, log in here.
If you do not already have an account in our system, go to this link in your web browser and click on the "Register" button to set up an account.
Letter of Intent Questions
Please note that decisions will not be based on language, grammar, or writing. There are two options for responding to the project narrative. (1) You may respond by filling out the application fields. (2) You can respond by pasting a link with your audio and/or video responses via YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud, etc.
Provide responses that answer the following:
- What specific community challenge does your project address? Tell us about the specific challenge your project aims to spotlight and change, its relation to the community affected, and the importance of disrupting this challenge.
- Imagine your community has overcome this challenge. What would the community look or feel like? What elements would you put in place to make your community a more racially just place in the future?
- How does your project work toward this new future? Feel free to describe strategies, models, and tools that you will use to build this future.
- 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, creating a product or outcome, or both?
- What community partners are involved with this project and what are their roles? Are these partners part of the ongoing network of support already in place? (Community partners can be individuals, organizations, agencies, etc.)
- How do these community partnerships advance racial justice?
- What is your relationship with these community partners? Is there a history of collaboration between you and them?
- How are the vision and decision-making of the project shared among the partners?
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.
- Community challenge: Contemporary civic life, architecture, and the infrastructure of our cities is informed by colonial ideology.
- Imagined future: A decolonized civic landscape, where community members develop their own more equitable version of the city.
- 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.
- Community challenge: Privatization of public infrastructure does not serve the public good.
- Imagined future: More vibrant public infrastructures that can improve the quality of our lives through social and food justice.
- 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 pilot program awarded its first grants in 2020.