Robert Smith III
Robert Smith III
Senior Program Officer, Thriving Cultures

Robert Smith III (he/him) is the Senior Program Officer of the Thriving Cultures Program, leading a $10 million portfolio focused on unleashing the radical imagination of artists and culture workers in the service of racial justice. He manages the Program’s grantmaking, learning strategies, and collaborations with grantees, partners, and funders that further the Foundation’s social justice mission. 

Robert’s work is guided by the long struggle for freedom as summed up in these two quotes.  

“As a culture worker who belongs to an oppressed people, my job is to make revolution irresistible.” — Toni Cade Bambara, Conversations with Toni Cade Bambara 

“Without new visions, we don’t know what to build, only what to knock down. We not only end up confused, rudderless, and cynical, but we forget that making a revolution is not a series of clever maneuvers and tactics, but a process that can and must transform us.” – Robin D.G. Kelley, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination 

Before joining Surdna in 2019, he served as Associate Director of the National Public Housing Museum in Chicago, IL, the only cultural institution devoted to telling the story of public housing in the United States. Robert has held positions at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Walker Art Center, the Minnesota Historical Society, and OutRight Action International. He has served on the boards of Project Fierce Chicago, a grassroots response to LGBTQ youth homelessness; PFund Foundation, an LGBTQ community foundation based in Minneapolis; and the Brown University Alumni Association. 

Born and raised in South Florida, he is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Minnesota. 

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