The New York City-based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has announced a shift in its strategic focus and, going forward, will prioritize social justice in all of its grantmaking.
While the shift has been two years in the making, it comes at a moment when grantmaking with a social justice lens is more relevant than ever. The foundation’s revised mission statement emphasizes that it will work “to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking where ideas and imagination can thrive.”
The foundation will implement its new strategy across four program areas: Higher Learning, through which the foundation will support inclusive humanities education and diverse learning environments, with a focus on underserved populations; Arts and Culture, through which the foundation will fund exceptional creative practice, scholarship, and conservation of arts and culture while nurturing a representative and robust arts and culture ecosystem; Public Knowledge, which will focus on increasing equitable access to deep knowledge — from scholarly texts to community collections — that helps build an informed, culturally diverse, and civically engaged society; and Humanities in Place, through which the foundation will work to bring a variety of histories and voices into public, media, and memorial spaces, widening the range of complex public storytelling.
“We have been evolving our work since I arrived as president, and we are unveiling it at a transformational moment in our history,” said Elizabeth Alexander, the foundation’s president. “At Mellon, we believe in the power of the humanities and the arts to facilitate a deeper understanding of the richness of human experience. Now, we urgently ask the question, ‘What does it mean to pursue social justice through the humanities and the arts?’ We are a problem-solving foundation looking to address historical inequities in the fields we fund. Our mission clearly reflects our values, and the core of our philanthropic approach.”