A year-long research and several conversations later, the Ford Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation granted $50,000 to twenty disabled artists under the Disability Futures fellowship. Administered by the United States Artists, an arts funding group, the fellowship’s eighteen-month initiative “pledges financial support” and “aims to foster a creative community across mediums and generations,” reported Lauren Messman of The New York Times.
A first of its kind, the fellowship came about as a “result of listening, collaboration, and humble engagement,” the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Program Director for Arts and Culture, Emil Kang, told Tessa Solomon of ARTnews. Kang further explained that the fellowship is an initiative to “recognize and support” disabled artists since ‘institutional structures have not served them in the past.’
Director of creativity and free expression at the Ford Foundation, Margaret Morton told Messman of The New York Times that the idea for the fellowship came about from the desire to engage more deeply with disabled people for which, she realized that they “needed to learn much more as a team, about language and about how to engage.” Hence, the Ford Foundation reached out to the president and chief executive of United States Artists, Deana Haggag, to work as a consultant for their team through the year of research. In conversation with Solomon of ARTnews, Morton also said they hope that the fellowship will “prompt more attention for engagement with disability-led content, productions and projects in the years to come.”
According to Messman of The New York Times, besides offering financial support, the fellowship also aims at “fostering community among its winners” and “elevating their work collectively” with a public gathering scheduled for July 2021.
As per the Ford Foundation, the artists who have received the Disability Futures fellowship are choreographer Alice Sheppard; journalist Alice Wong; interdisciplinary artist Carolyn Lazard; artist Christine Sun Kim; poet and essayist Eli Clare; designer Jeffrey Yasuo Mansfield; journalist, non-fiction writer, memoirist and photographer, Jen Deerinwater; dancer Jerron Herman; film director and producer, Jim LeBrecht; writer John Lee Clark; writer and performance artist, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha; writer and journalist, Mia Mingus; dancer and visual artist, Navild Acosta; director, filmmaker, and writer, Patty Berne; performance artist, dancer, choreographer and writer, Perel; painter and writer, Riva Lehrer; filmmaker, Rodney Evans; playwright and performer, Ryan J. Haddad; garment maker, Sky Cubacub; and filmmaker, Tourmaline.
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