About Us

Intersection of Art and Activism

A regional* arts service organization with 37 years of history, Alternate ROOTS is an invaluable national resource to artists, organizers and cultural workers. As a visible champion of activist artists, ROOTS is looked to for leadership particularly in the Southern United States, where it provides the most direct services to its members. Alternate ROOTS provides the connective tissue for a distinct segment of the arts and culture field - artists who have a commitment to making work in, with, by, for and about their communities, and those whose cultural work strives for social justice. While this is a large sector in US arts and culture—many artists work in this way and share these aims—these practitioners are, for the most part, informally organized and collaborations are often the result of chance as much as choice. Alternate ROOTS contributes to the sustained artistic development, increased visibility, and stability of activist artists.

*Alternate ROOTS' service region is the geographic area of the United States often referred to as "The South": Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.


Our Essence

Alternate ROOTS is an organization based in the Southern USA* whose mission is to support the creation and presentation of original art, in all its forms, which is rooted in a particular community of place, tradition or spirit. As a coalition of cultural workers we strive to be allies in the elimination of all forms of oppression. ROOTS is committed to social and economic justice and the protection of the natural world and addresses these concerns through its programs and services.


Our Founding

Alternate ROOTS was founded in 1976 at the Highlander Center in New Market, Tennessee in order to meet the distinct needs of artists who work for social justice, and artists who create work by, for, about and within communities of place, tradition, affiliation, and spirit. Originally an acronym for Regional Organization of Theaters South, ROOTS quickly established itself as a thought leader in the field of community-based arts and the only regional collective of artists committed to social and economic justice. In response to the needs of the growing field of community-based arts, ROOTS evolved to a multidisciplinary member-based and artist-driven organization. Member artists develop programs, and ROOTS provides resources for the needs of these socially conscious artists.

As a progressive arts organization, ROOTS is at the forefront of establishing model programs for regional cultural organizing in the US. ROOTS is an exemplary incubator for participatory democracy, and through the practice of our guiding principles as created by Resources for Social Change - Equitable Partnership, Shared Power, Open Dialogue, Individual and Community Transformation, and an Aesthetic of transparent processes - we continue to be a model for regional organizing that is responsive to and reflective of the needs of this unique artistic community.