With $750,000 Grant, Minneapolis Institute of Art Starts Up Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts

The Minneapolis Institute of Art.


The Minneapolis Institute of Art has received a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and will use the money toward starting what it is calling the Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts, or CEVA for short. Other so-called centers for empathy have been established by activist organizations and international affairs groups—among them People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Stanford University’s medical school, and the Center for Empathy in International Affairs, which has has worked with U.S. peace groups—yet no major art museum has created one before, making CEVA the first of its kind.

The launch of CEVA will include an initiative lasting nearly five years to convene philosophers, writers, artists, thought leaders, and others to research ways that the arts can make people more compassionate. This past October, the Minneapolis Institute began the initiative with a conference at the University of California, Berkeley. A second phase of research, in which the museum’s curators will investigate how better to connect with visitors, will follow.

Kaywin Feldman, the Nivin and Duncan MacMillan director of Mia, said in a statement, “A visitor to our museum has the opportunity to experience works of art made over the course of some 5,000 years, from every corner of the globe. One of the most meaningful aspects of this encounter is the awareness it can awaken of a common humanity—an immediate sense of connection between the viewer and someone who may have lived in a very different time and place. Thanks to the Mellon Foundation, we’re proud to take the lead with partners across the country in studying how to spark and nurture empathy through the visual arts, so that Mia and all art museums can contribute even more toward building a just and harmonious society.”

In addition to the Mellon grant, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts has received a $520,000 grant from the Ford Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. The museum will put that grant toward its Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) initiative, with some money specifically going toward the hiring of a diversity and inclusion manager. The museum also plans to work with local colleges and universities to recruit fellows, interns, and volunteers.

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