Ford and Mellon Foundations Expand Initiative for Disabled Artists


The Disability Futures initiative, a fellowship established by the Ford and Andrew W. Mellon Foundations final fall to help disabled artists, is increasing. The foundations introduced on Friday that they’ll commit a further $5 million to help the initiative by way of 2025, which can embody help for 2 extra cohorts of 20 fellows.

The fellowship, which was created by and for disabled people, was conceived as an 18-month initiative. It supplied 20 disabled artists, filmmakers and journalists, chosen from throughout the United States, with unrestricted $50,000 grants administered by the humanities funding group United States Artists.

But Margaret Morton, the director of creativity and free expression on the Ford Foundation, mentioned it was clear from the start that it couldn’t simply be a one-off enterprise.

Projects undertaken by members of the primary cohort will likely be showcased on the first Disability Futures digital pageant, on Monday and Tuesday, with programming from a few of the nation’s main disabled artists, writers, thinkers and designers. It is free and open to the general public.

Among the highlights: A session on incapacity portraiture with the filmmakers Jim LeBrecht and Rodney Evans, the painter Riva Lehrer and the journalist Alice Wong; a dialog exploring the connections between local weather justice and incapacity justice led by Patty Berne; and a digital dance get together hosted by the garment maker Sky Cubacub, with music by DJ Who Girl (Kevin Gotkin). Evening runway performances from fashions carrying gadgets from Cubacub’s Rebirth Garments and a meditation expertise with the initiative Black Power Naps, that includes Navild Acosta and Fannie Sosa, are additionally on faucet.

“It’s been actually profound for me to see how a lot the fellows chosen within the first cohort have been inquisitive about elevating others in the neighborhood,” Emil J. Kang, this system director for arts and tradition on the Mellon Foundation, mentioned in an interview on Thursday.

The subsequent class of fellows will likely be introduced in 2022. They are chosen by peer advisers who’re themselves disabled artists.

But the suggestions from the primary class, Morton mentioned, was frank: Do even higher within the choice course of.

“One of the fellows challenged us,” she mentioned, about there being just one Native American fellow. “And we appreciated that and have been challenged to get it proper and ensure now we have a deeper pool.”

The grants supply versatile compensation choices. The cash will be distributed in a lump sum, in funds and even be deferred, relying on what works greatest for the artist.

The fellowship “has made an unbelievable distinction in my life and profession,” the author and photographer Jen Deerinwater mentioned in an e-mail. “It’s allowed me extra monetary freedom, with out the chance of dropping my incapacity and well being care companies, to pursue extra inventive pursuits corresponding to music.”

The pandemic has made basis leaders “deeply conscious” of the challenges disabled professionals face, Morton mentioned. About one in 4 adults within the United States has a incapacity, in keeping with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We gained a deeper impression and perspective about what it’s prefer to navigate by way of the world,” she mentioned.

The program’s overarching aim is to assist the artists make connections, Morton mentioned.

“Our largest dream is visibility,” she mentioned. For audiences to see the artists and for funders to see that “they need to begin investing in disabled practitioners.”



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