Collage Dance Collective

South Arts Names Collage Dance Collective a Southern Cultural Treasure

The initiative funds 17 BIPOC arts organizations across the Southeastern region with $6 millionin partnership with Ford Foundation

Collage Dance Collective is proud to be a recipient and member of South Arts’s inaugural cohort of Southern Cultural Treasures: a $6,000,000, four-year initiative supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) -led and -serving arts and cultural organizations throughout the Southeast.

“We are honored to be included in a group of southern performing arts groups who are all working on the front lines of change and to see performing arts groups in the American South receive the recognition often reserved for our coastal peers,” said Marcellus Harper, Executive Director of Collage Dance Collective. “This transformative funding supports our work to make ballet more inclusive and helps to fortify our organization against the residual challenges of the pandemic,” Harper added.

This initial cohort is made up of 17 organizations that represent decades of BIPOC arts and community-driven stewardship throughout the nine-state region that includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Collage Dance Collective holds the distinction of being the sole nonprofit organization from Memphis or Tennessee in the South Arts’s inaugural cohort of Southern Cultural Treasures.

“South Arts is honored to recognize and support these 17 organizations as Southern Cultural Treasures,” said Susie Surkamer, South Arts’ President and CEO. “These groups push the boundaries of creative expression, anchor their local communities, and advance the arts in our nine-state region. Our hope is that this initiative, with the help of these organizations, will foster a more equitable art community throughout the Southeastern region.”

South Arts first announced the Southern Cultural Treasures program in the fall of 2021. It complements the Ford Foundation’s America’s Cultural Treasures initiative, which aims to acknowledge and honor the diversity of artistic expression and excellence in America and provide critical funding to organizations that have made a significant impact on America’s cultural landscape.

“We are thrilled to partner with South Arts and honor these seventeen cultural institutions and their contributions to the regional landscape,” said Lane Harwell, program officer for creativity and free expression at the Ford Foundation. “We hope this investment will inspire more funders and patrons to support the diversity of arts organizations and expressions in the American South.”

Organizations throughout the nine-state region were given the opportunity to submit a letter of intent. After review, those most closely aligned with the program goals were invited to complete a full application that went through a pair of national reviews before undergoing an interview process with South Arts’s leadership. These 17 exceptional nonprofits were chosen for their vital impact on their communities and helping to both define and preserve the uniqueness of the arts ecosystem in the region.

The 17 Southern Cultural Treasures are:

  • Collage Dance Collective, Memphis, TN
  • Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, Inc., Birmingham, AL
  • Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator, Miami, FL
  • Teatro Avante, Miami, FL
  • Art2Action Inc., Tampa, FL
  • Deep Center, Inc., Savannah, GA
  • Otis Redding Foundation, Macon, GA
  • True Colors Theatre Company, Atlanta, GA
  • Ballethnic Dance Company Inc., East Point, GA
  • Asia Institute, Inc., Louisville, KY
  • Junebug Productions, Inc., New Orleans, LA
  • Efforts of Grace, Inc., New Orleans, LA
  • Mississippi Center for Cultural Production, Utica, MS
  • BB King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center, Indianola, MS
  • JazzArts Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
  • Colour of Music, Inc., Mount Pleasant, SC
  • Catawba Indian Nation, Rock Hill, SC

“These organizations make up a dynamic representation not only of their region and their communities, but also the burgeoning desire to grow and serve the cultural landscape of the South,” said Joy Young, PhD South Arts’ Vice President of Programs. “Our duty at South Arts is to continue advocating for this kind of instrumental support, and we are confident that this cohort of Southern Cultural Treasures will help inspire these pursuits on a national scale.”

The 17 Southern Cultural Treasures were chosen after completing a vigorous application and interview process. Other finalists include Alabama Blues Project, Huntsville Community Drumline, Spady Cultural Heritage Museum, Inc., Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc., New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Inc., Walltown Children’s Theatre, Blues City Cultural Center, and Hattiloo Theatre.

The program is expected to run through March 2025 and provide each organization with up to $300,000 of general operating grants distributed over three years, an additional project grant of up to $7,500, customized consultant services, networking, cohort building, and knowledge sharing.

Southern Cultural Treasures is designed to be a measure of sustainable support. By providing BIPOC-led and -serving organizations with tools and framework to establish their own agency and institutional narratives, the initiative encourages growth throughout the South—not only in the context of the arts, but also in the impact of surrounding communities as well.

South Arts’s Southern Cultural Treasures is supported by the Ford Foundation, with additional support from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, the Infusion Fund, a partnership between the City of Charlotte, Foundation For The Carolinas and generous donors to support the arts and cultural sector, and the Zeist Foundation.

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