New Humanities in Place Program at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Awards More Than $15 Million to Organizations Doing Place-Based Work

Thursday, September 30, 2021

New Humanities in Place Program at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Awards More Than $15 Million to Organizations Doing Place-Based Work


NEW YORK, NY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2021 - The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation today announced $15 million in grants supporting 19 projects and organizations through the Foundation’s newly established Humanities in Place program.  Humanities in Place will focus on work that includes or incorporates historic and community spaces, museums and other institutions, and media and conveners of cultural heritage and public experiences as spaces of learning, expression, and exchange.  Organizations engaging in this work play a pivotal role in determining how and where the stories of our histories and communities are told across public experiences as varied as built environments, digital platforms, and ephemeral programs.  

With these first grants, ranging from $150,000 to $3.5 million, the Humanities in Place program aims to support a diverse collection of bold, innovative organizations and places that are rethinking past practice and creating visionary new approaches for how to collectively understand, uplift, and celebrate more complete stories about who we are as a nation—both within distinct communities and as a broader society.  

Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander conceived of and launched Humanities in Place—the first newly established program area at the Foundation in more than 30 years—in December 2020 under the direction of inaugural Program Officer Justin Garrett Moore. 

“This vital program is now fundamental to the architecture of the Mellon Foundation itself,” said Dr. Alexander.  “With the creation of Humanities in Place, we have begun to address the urgent need to expand the range of voices centered and celebrated in our public spaces and to better fulfill our mission as a social justice philanthropy.”  The program is distinct from but complementary to the Foundation’s five-year Monuments Project, which commenced in 2020 as a means of reimagining and rebuilding commemorative spaces. 

As Humanities in Place approaches its one-year milestone, Moore, an urban designer who served as executive director of the City of New York Public Design Commission before joining the Mellon Foundation, has laid out a three-fold strategic approach that will guide the program in its work to reshape our nation’s public and cultural landscapes in the years ahead: 

  • Keeping & Shaping Our Places - The Mellon Foundation’s Humanities in Place program will support projects, initiatives, and infrastructure effort working to better identify, document, create, and care for our places, in addition to supporting innovative ideas and actions that work to design a more just present and future. 
  • Evolving Our Institutions - The program will work to catalyze initiatives and programs that support the evolution and sustainability of institutions focused on advancing social justice through place-based approaches. 
  • Promoting Greater Engagement & Understanding - Finally, Humanities in Place will support projects and programs with a place-based focus that promote greater access, interaction, and exchange of stories and experiences, working toward a fuller appreciation and understanding of a more complete representation of our histories, narratives, and expression.

“Humanities in Place focuses on elevating the people and places that have long been under-resourced and at times left out of or diminished in our public, cultural and historical landscapes and narratives,” said Program Officer Justin Garrett Moore.  “It is an exciting and critical time to direct much-needed and deserved resources to shaping these landscapes and narratives to better reflect our complexity and toward advancing social justice.  This inaugural group of grants and our continued work will facilitate greater access to our shared past and fuel the possibilities for more just futures.” 

The Mellon Foundation’s inaugural Humanities in Place grantees include the following (please see a complete list of supported projects below):

1882 Project Foundation (Washington, DC); African Futures Institute (Accra, Ghana); Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (San Francisco, CA); Black Reconstruction Collective (State College, PA); Daisy Wilson Artist Community / August Wilson House (Pittsburgh, PA); Friends of the Coltrane Home in Dix Hills (Deer Park, NY); Historic Clayborn Temple (Memphis, TN); Historical Preservation Authority of the City of Birmingham (Birmingham, AL); IDEAS xLab (Louisville, KY); Lower East Side Tenement Museum (New York, NY); National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States (Washington, DC); Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice (Durham, NC); The Rebuild Foundation (Chicago, IL); Scalawag (Durham, NC); Sweet Water Foundation (Chicago, IL); The Soapbox Presents (New York, NY); Tuskegee University (Tuskegee, AL); University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA); and Zócalo Public Square (Los Angeles, CA). 

“The Mellon Foundation’s Humanities in Place program gives voice to historical storytelling—important work that is consistent with our organization’s mission to provide expressive and creative artistic spaces through our backyard theater and artist housing that will honor the legacy of August Wilson,” said Denise Turner, Acting Chief Executive and Board President for the August Wilson House.  “We are grateful to be among the inaugural recipients of this esteemed grant as it supports a critical step toward the final completion of our arts center.  Through his plays, August Wilson always emphasized the importance of not tossing away the history of the Black experience, and the funding from this grant allows us to literally honor the ground on which he stood...

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