Carolyn Lazard, Extended Stay (detail), 2019, hospital monitor, articulating wall mount, cable television subscription, infinite duration, dimensions variable.
[A smooth, white television montior attached to a robotic arm extends into an empty art gallery and plays a daytime talk show. The caption reads: “After 8 hours, ah” and “Oh look at that.”]

Ford, Mellon Foundations Initiate Disability Futures Fellows, Awarding $50,000 to 20 Artists

The Ford Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation this morning announced the twenty inaugural Disability Futures Fellows, each of whom will receive a $50,000 grant toward their work. The fellowship, the first of its kind, is an 18-month, discipline-spanning initiative meant to increase the visibility and amplify the voices of disabled creative practitioners, artists, educators, and activists in the US.

The fellows, nominated and chosen by disabled practitioners and scattered across the country, are multimedia artist Navild (niv) Acosta, poet and essayist Eli Clare, writer and filmmaker Patty Berne, writer John Lee Clark, garment maker Sky Cubacub, journalist Jen Deerinwater, filmmaker Rodney Evans, playwright Ryan J. Haddad, dancer Jerron Herman, sound artist Christine Sun Kim, interdisciplinary artist Carolyn Lazard, director Jim LeBrecht, painter Riva Lehrer, designer Jeffrey Yasuo Mansfield, journalist Mia Mingus, performance artist Perel, writer and performance artist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, choreographer Alice Sheppard, filmmaker Tourmaline, and journalist Alice Wong.

“It is a privilege to recognize this array of creative professionals and lift up their contributions to the arts, journalism, and documentary film,” said Margaret Morton, Ford Foundation director of creativity and free expression. “We hope that this fellowship will prompt more attention for and engagement with disability-led content, productions, and projects in the years to come.”

Administered by United States Artists, the intitiative was prompted by disabled practitioners and follows from a year-long study in which the collaborating foundations interviewed dozens of disabled artists and those working in other creative fields to determine how they could best be served by a philanthropic effort. Among the problems Ford and Mellon hope to address with the fellowship are the dearth of disability visibility in the cultural sector, the lack of professional development opportunities available to disabled practitioners, and the need for a national grant program tailored to the unique financial challenges of disabled artists.

“Institutional structures have not served disabled artists in the past,” said Emil Kang, program director for arts and culture at the 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 directly.”