What This Initiative Tells Us About Southeast Arts Philanthropy

When I last looked at the Atlanta-based South Arts, it was accepting submissions for its "Literary Arts Touring" initiative. I found the initiative intriguing because it rekindles the "communal literary experience."

Now comes word that the organization has rolled out a brand new program aimed at artists who value their solitude.

South Arts is now accepting entries for its first annual State Fellowships and Southern Prize, offering nine individual artists cash awards up to $30,000. The program will be open to individual artists living in the South Arts region: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Let's start with the fellowships.

The South Arts State Fellowship is a state-specific prize awarded to the artists whose work "reflects the best of the visual arts in the South." A review panel will select one winner per eligible state, with "artistic excellence" being the sole criterion. A total of nine fellows will be awarded a $5,000 and will compete for one of the two South Arts Prizes.

Which brings me to the latter prize. A national panel will convene to evaluate the body of work represented by the nine State Fellowship recipients and select the prize winner and finalist. The winner nets $25,000 plus a two-week residency at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences. The finalist gets $10,000.

The application deadline is March 1, 2017. For more information and to apply, click here.

In a recent post I noted how we're seeing an upsurge in regional philanthropy in areas like the Southwest, Upper Midwest, and the Southeast. It's probably no coincidence that South Arts, which is taking the lead in acknowledging, supporting, and celebrating "the highest quality artistic work being created in the American South," is based in Atlanta, the epicenter of "new South" arts philanthropy.

A while back, I devoted a whole post illustrating the role of small- and mid-sized arts organizations in shaping the city's cultural economy. As a relatively young arts ecosystem, Atlanta is somewhat top heavy—only four arts organizations within the city limits have operating budgets exceeding $2 million. Compounding matters is that fact that many of region's arts nonprofits remain under-capitalized.

And yet here is South Arts, a niche organization, rolling out a brand new program with some serious money in hand. That's good news for the arts in Atlanta and beyond.