Cultural Policy & ROOTS

A Southern based regional arts and social justice service organization with national reach, Alternate ROOTS’ role in cultural policy is to develop an understanding and awareness of regional and national social justice and arts policies that have implications for Alternate ROOTS members and our mission: 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.

What’s Cultural Policy?

In the United States today, Cultural Policy is largely seen as the government actions, laws, and programs that regulate, protect, encourage, and financially (or otherwise) support activities related to the arts and creative sectors. Organizations and people work at varying levels to impact policy through cultural shifting and actual legislative changes to the law.

The idea of cultural policy was developed at UNESCO in the 1960s. Below are some highlights from the paper, Cultural Policy, a preliminary study:

“It was considered preferable: (a) that ‘cultural policy’ should be taken to mean the sum total of the conscious and deliberate usages, action or lack of action in a society, aimed at meeting certain cultural needs through the optimum utilization of all the physical and human resources available to that society at a given time; (b) that certain criteria for cultural development should be defined, and that culture should be linked to the fulfillment of personality and to economic and social development.

Cultural development is essential in order to strengthen awareness of nationhood and thus facilitate the growth of an original culture which will meet both the deepest aspirations of the people and the requirements of the modern world; State intervention is essential, since private action is often times ineffective.”

Cultural Policy @ ROOTS

Alternate ROOTS’ role in cultural policy is to develop an understanding and awareness of regional and national social justice and arts policies that have implications for Alternate ROOTS members and our mission. ROOTS will identify and communicate its policy and strategies internally and externally to actualize change by working with our members, grassroots organizations, national, regional, and local arts advocacy partners as well as organizations focusing on issue areas identified.

The following are specific ways that we have to explore and grow into supporting this work:

  • Develop strategy and identify relevant social justice issue areas where Alternate ROOTS’ support could be most effective in mobilizing our membership and affiliates for support.
  • Elevate ROOTS’ impact at a grassroots level.
  • Advocate at a national advocacy level regarding the issues most important to ROOTS members and support of rural, social justice, and Indigenous artists and arts.
  • Advocate, present, and speak regionally and nationally at public convenings regarding the importance of issues and identified solutions, practices, and approaches.
  • Advocate specifically for funding (arts, culture, humanities, and social justice) to ROOTS member areas and work that supports our constituency.

The Cultural Policy Corner

The Cultural Policy Corner will be the outward face of much of the work that Alternate ROOTS and its members are doing in the field to amplify, mobilize people, and support the social movements of our times. Alternate ROOTS members have been on the front line of progressive issues since our founding in 1976 and in the last decade, the ROOTS staff have been developing strategic partnerships in the arts and social justice space to advance ROOTS’ impact into social issues.

In the Cultural Policy Corner, you will find member spotlights, highlights and updates on movements members and ROOTS are engaged in, as well as resources and calls to action. This is the next step in our strategic plan objective to build capacity for ROOTS and members to affect policy and advocate for change at community, state, regional, and national levels.

Out in the Field

The 2013 strategic plan marked a pivotal shift for the organization to move from a place of service to action. This has lead ROOTS to more actively advocate and move social and community change into the center of the organization with all members becoming resources for social change. Alternate ROOTS participates in cultural policy by engaging in work initiated by partners and peer organizations. ROOTS participates in advocacy programs, convenings, and talks led by organizations whose focus and primary mission is advocacy including American for the Arts, Performing Arts Alliance, Project South Institute for the Elimination of Poverty and Genocide, Southern Movement Assembly, and Media Action Grassroots Network. Additionally, we have partnered with peer and partner organizations like National Association for Latino Arts and Culture who have developed an advocacy program to prepare artists to participate in advocacy in their local community and on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

During the next 12 months, we look to grow our partners and presence in criminal justice and social justice issue areas. Please note there will be more to come as we continue to develop our cultural policy strategy! So check back frequently.

If you have ideas about how ROOTS can do more, please contact Ashley Walden Davis at or call 404.577.1079 ext 304.

Connections: ,
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.