Culture helps people connect over time, inviting them to build and sustain the vibrant communities they call home. Thriving cultures honor and celebrate the artistic impulse as part of community behavior and as a way to strengthen community identity and cohesion.  The Surdna Foundation believes that cultural organizations, programs and projects often provide the opportunity for exploration of values and can act as catalysts for the building of just, sustainable communities. At their best, they contribute to fair access to social goods such as rights, opportunities and dignity.

Currently, Surdna’s Thriving Cultures Program will accept letters of inquiry in three lines of work: Teens' Artistic Advancement, Artists Engaging in Social Change, and Community Driven Design.

  • Teens' Artistic Advancement

Surdna is dedicated to providing opportunities for the artistic advancement of teens.  We aim to stimulate fresh thinking and new approaches to address the isolation and lack of opportunities for artistic advancement for young people from disadvantaged communities.  Long-term, we expect teens from many cultures to contribute to the artistic fabric of the United States and to contribute to the evolution of new art forms.

  • Artists Engaging in Social Change

Artists, arts and other cultural organizations play a critical role in fostering just and sustainable communities: they raise awareness and deepen our understanding of seemingly intractable social problems; they help those whose stories are not often heard to gain a public voice; and they help to develop innovative solutions and inspire community members to action.  Surdna aims to strengthen the capacity of artists and cultural organizations to effectively engage in social change and to support and heighten awareness of the diverse roles artists can play in social change efforts.

  • Community Driven Design

As part of fostering just and sustainable communities, Surdna recognizes the critical role of community-driven design as a catalyst for positive change.  Disadvantaged cultural groups often have little say, and fewer resources, towards the creation of public spaces that recognize their values, preferences and needs. Surdna will assist community and cultural leaders, architects, designers, engineers and others to increase their collaborative capacity to design places that honor the inhabitants and signal increased optimism about the community's future.

For complete information about these lines of work, please click the View Our Program Guidelines button below.

We are currently exploring additional priority areas and will update these guidelines in 2011-12.

Thriving Cultures What's New – Funding

Jul 05

Deadline for Strategic National Arts Alumni Project Registration and Findings from 2010 SNAAP Survey

Jul 05

Surdna Arts Teachers Fellowship 2012 Applications Now Available

May 13

Surdna’s Thriving Cultures Program Director Plans Transition

View More


  • Artists Engaging in Social Change and Community Driven Design will not exclusively involve teens.
  • We anticipate close collaboration with Surdna's Strong Local Economies and Sustainable Environments program areas.
  • For Arts Teachers in arts-focused public high schools interested in applying to Surdna's Arts Teachers Fellowship Program (SATF), please click here.
  • For organizations eligible for grant renewals in FY11 (for second or third year of funding), please contact Christina Rupp,