What Is ROOTS?

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Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in community, place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression – everywhere.

Arts • Community • Activism

Alternate ROOTS is a regional* arts service organization with 39 years of history. As a member-driven national resource for artists and cultural organizers, we seek to champion social and economic justice and the work of people in our field.

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. The nature of this work spreads us far and wide from each other, so collaboration, peer sharing and combined impact can be a challenge. Alternate ROOTS helps us sustain our artistic development, increased visibility, and stability as activist artists and cultural organizers.

*The ROOTS Region covers the Southern area of the United States: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Our Mission

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 History

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 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 model regional organizing that is responsive to and reflective of the needs of this unique artistic community.

Visit the MEMBER ZONE to learn more or join.

Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in communities of place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression—everywhere.