The Ford Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation have joined forces to create a major fund for disabled artists and activists. Titled the Disability Future Fellows, it will award $50,000 grants to 20 visual artists, filmmakers, writers and performers, each of whom will use the money to support an ongoing project. The fellowships, designed by artists and administered by United States Artists, are the first awards of its kind.
“Institutional structures have not served disabled artists in the past,” said Emil Kang, Program Director for Arts and Culture at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “Disability Futures is the result of listening, collaboration, and humble engagement and we at Mellon are pleased to recognize and support these outstanding artists.
Among those set to receive awards through the initiative are several artists of note. Two 2019 Whitney Biennial alumni will be named Future Fellows: Christine Sun Kim and Carolyn Lazard. Kim, who performed the sign-language anthem at the Super Bowl in February, is known for her sound works focused on hearing and deafness, and Lazard makes films and sculptures focused on labor and chronic illnesses, some of which are on view at New York’s Essex Street gallery currently.
Also receiving fellowships are Tourmaline, a filmmaker whose semi-documentaries about queer history are rapidly rising in prominence, and niv Acosta, whose performance-based works have focused on intersections of gender and Blackness.
Others set to get fellowships include writer and filmmaker Patty Berne, poet and essayist Eli Clare, writer John Lee Clark, garment maker Sky Cubacub, journalist and photograher Jen Deerinwater, filmmaker Rodney Evans, playwright and performer Ryan J. Haddad, dancer Jerron Herman, filmmaker Jim LeBrecht, painter and writer Riva Lehrer, designer Jeffrey Mansfield, writer Mia Mingus, choreographer Perel, writer and performance artist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, choreographer and writer Alice Sheppard, and journalist Alice Wong.
“It is a privilege to recognize this array of creative professionals,” said Margaret Morton, director of creativity and free expression at the Ford Foundation. “It is critical that we engage with disabled practitioner’s perspectives and elevate their narratives. We hope that this fellowship will prompt more attention for engagement with disability-led content, productions, and projects in the years to come.”