The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced a major strategic evolution for its organization, prioritizing social justice in all of its grant-making. The Foundation’s board has resoundingly endorsed a refined mission statement and updated program areas.
While Mellon’s strategic shift—under the leadership of Mellon President Elizabeth Alexander— has been two years in the making, current events make the Foundation’s new social justice lens even more relevant to Mellon’s philanthropic efforts supporting the arts and humanities.
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Since its founding, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has sought to strengthen, promote, and defend the arts and humanities as essential to democratic societies. An increased focus on just communities comes at a moment in which a national spotlight is shining on widespread—and longstanding—social and racial injustice. The new mission notes that the Foundation’s focus will be on building “just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking where ideas and imagination can thrive” and animated by a belief that “the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity.”
President of the Mellon Foundation, Elizabeth Alexander said, “We have been evolving our work since I arrived as President, and we are unveiling it at a transformational moment in our history. 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.”
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Board of Trustees Chair Kathryn A. Hall said, “We are inspired by and deeply supportive of our reinvigorated mission and strategic direction for the Mellon Foundation. It not only builds on our historic commitment to the arts and humanities, but rightly emphasizes a desire to make the ‘beauty, transcendence, and freedom’ found there accessible and empowering to all members of society.”
The new strategic direction will engage the public in support of sharper critical thinking across America, expose more people to experience the power and value of learning and art, and in all of this, reflect the true heterogeneity of our communities. To achieve those goals, the Foundation’s grantmaking will be divided into four program areas:
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