The Outcomes We Seek

  • Increased public and private funding to artists of color and arts nonprofits and creative businesses led by people of color

  • Increased policies in public and private institutions that work effectively to close racial disparities

  • Increased democratic engagement among communities of color

Ideas are only as good as the audiences they reach. We partner with artists, culture-bearers, designers, and media makers of color to create narratives with organizers, movement leaders and advocates. We also transfer ideas into the realm of public policy by partnering with officials within municipal and state agencies.

Policy Advocacy/Movement Convenings

What We Fund: We fund conveners that bring together artists, researchers, and cultural critics of color together with public policy and social movement leaders to advance shared racial justice outcomes. We support public- and private-sector policy development that emerge from our Create and Clarify approaches.
Accepting letters of intent: No

Narrative Change

What We Fund: We fund conveners of narrative-change practitioners and support campaigns that seek to shift narratives that support racial justice public policy initiatives and the democratic participation of communities of color.
Accepting letters of intent: No

Philanthropic Influence

What We Fund: We fund place-based initiatives that incentivize local arts philanthropies to close racial disparities in their grantmaking programs, policies, procedures, and behaviors in partnership with front line and community-based leaders.
Accepting letters of intent: No

Selection Criteria

General Selection Criteria
  • Demonstrated alignment with Surdna’s six core values
  • Primarily led by and for people of color, artists, women, and/or lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans/gender-nonconforming people (staff, board, review panels, juries, etc.)
  • Informed and capable leadership and staff with the ability to identify and articulate the intersection of race and power with other systems, including, but not limited to, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, ability, and class.
  • Demonstrated relationships and a history of trust with frontline, grassroots, and/or under-resourced communities
  • Expansive definition of “artist” that includes, but is not limited to, culture-bearers, designers, architects, and media-makers
  • Capacity to serve as an ambassador to the field for achieving racial justice outcomes through cultural strategies
  • Experience, ability, and capacity working with civic- and socially engaged artists
  • Openness to sharing learning opportunities with the staff and board of the Foundation and with other Surdna partners by participating in a community of practice


You can see all grants given under our Connect strategy below.
And explore other Thriving Cultures grants in our database.

Related News & Insights

Reports & Publications
June 29, 2020
Celestial Navigation: How to Fund Culture Change in the U.S.

If there was ever a moment for cultural strategy and investment in Black, Indigenous, and artists of color, it is now. Amid a global pandemic and a national uprising against systemic racism, we are witnessing the power of artists, cultural…

February 1, 2019
Robert Smith III Joins the Surdna Foundation as Program Officer, Thriving Cultures

The Surdna Foundation is pleased to announce its hire of Robert Smith III as Program Officer of the Thriving Cultures program. Robert will help guide the implementation of the Thriving Cultures’ refined strategy, Radical Imagination for Racial…

Reports & Publications
July 21, 2017
Helicon Collaborative Report: Not Just Money

Helicon Collaborative recently released Not Just Money: Equity Issues in Cultural Philanthropy, a research study conducted with funding from the Surdna Foundation. The study continues Helicon's examination of inequities in arts funding in the…

March 10, 2017
University of Pennsylvania Report: Arts and Culture Improve Health, Safety and Well-being

The University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impact of the Arts Project released a report yesterday entitled, “Culture and Social Wellbeing in New York City.” The two-year research project studied the economic, education, environment, public…

You can see all grants given under our Connect strategy below.
And explore other Thriving Cultures grants in our database.