The Ford and Mellon Foundations Are Teaming Up to Launch a First-of-Its-Kind Fellowship for Disabled Artists and Creatives

Each of the 20 fellows will receive a $50,000 grant.

Film still. Rowin Amone plays Mary Jones, wearing a white dress and white pearls with her black hair in a sculptural updo. She leans forward, in conversation with two other lavishly dressed Black women on either side of her.
Tourmaline, Film still. Rowin Amone plays Mary Jones, wearing a white dress and white pearls with her black hair in a sculptural updo. She leans forward, in conversation with two other lavishly dressed Black women on either side of her.

The Ford Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation are teaming up to launch the only financial award in the US for disabled creatives from all disciplines. The initiative, called Disability Futures, aims to increase the visibility of disabled artists, address the lack of professional development opportunities available to them, and account for the unique financial challenges they face.

The program launches with an 18-month fellowship for 20 artists. Each will receive $50,000 to fund their work. United States Artists will administer the grants, which amount to a total of $1 million.

“Institutional structures have not served disabled artists in the past,” Emil Kang, director for Arts and Culture at Mellon Foundation, said. “Disability Futures is the result of listening, collaboration, and humble engagement.”

Some grantees will be familiar to much of the art world. Carolyn Lazard and Christine Sun Kim were included in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, Kim performed the National Anthem in sign language at last year’s Super Bowl, and Tourmaline is an activist and filmmaker based in New York City. Other awardees, such as garment maker Sky Cubacub and dancer and choreographer Perel, have worked outside the fine-art context.

Dressed in a sleek black outfit, Christine Sun Kim stands on stage among three large, black screens. The left screen reads, "DO YOU HAVE ANY MILK SUBSTITUTES?" On the right screen, a drawing of wheat stocks. Above her, a sound description reads, "MAN'S VOICE WITH A COLD."

Dressed in a sleek black outfit, Christine Sun Kim stands on stage among three large, black screens. The left screen reads, “DO YOU HAVE ANY MILK SUBSTITUTES?” On the right screen, a drawing of wheat stocks. Above her, a sound description reads, “MAN’S VOICE WITH A COLD.”

The initiative was born out of a year-long research study that involved interviewing dozens of disabled artists and creatives across the country to determine how philanthropists could better support their work. A group of disabled practitioners nominated and selected the fellows.

See the full list of fellows below.

Alice Sheppard 

Alice Wong

Carolyn Lazard

Christine Sun Kim

Eli Clare 

Jeffrey Yasuo Mansfield 

Jen Deerinwater

Jerron Herman

Jim LeBrecht

John Lee Clark

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha 

Mia Mingus

Navild (niv) Acosta

Patty Berne

Perel 

Riva Lehrer

Rodney Evans

Ryan J. Haddad

Sky Cubacub

Tourmaline


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