A supported membrane based, strategy for the presentation of soluble signaling molecules to living cells is described. In this system, the fluidity of the supported membrane enables localized enrichment of ligand density in a configuration reflecting cognate receptor distribution on the cell surface. Display of a ligand in non-fluid supported membranes produces significantly less cell adhesion and spreading, thus demonstrating that this technique provides a means to control functional soluble ligand exposure in a surface array format. Furthermore, this technique can be applied to tether natively membrane-bound signaling molecules such as ephrin A1 to a supported lipid bilayer. Such a surface can modulate the spreading behavior of metastatic human breast cancer cells displaying ligands and biomolecules of choice. The SLB microenvironment provides a versatile platform that can be tailored to controllably and functionally present a multitude of cell signaling events in a parallel surface array format.