Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: Grants for Visual Art

OVERVIEW: The Mellon Foundation's art grants are "designed to help excellent institutions build and sustain their capacity to undertake serious scholarship on their permanent collections; to preserve these collections; and to share the results of their work in appropriate ways with scholarly and other audiences." The foundation's program revolves around art history, conservation, and museums.

IP TAKE: Mellon Foundation funds are very hard to come by if for grant seekers who are not affiliated with a large academic or art institution.

PROFILE: Founded in 1969, The Mellon Foundation was created by the children of Andrew W. Mellon to honor their father, the banker, industrialist, politician, and philanthropist. The foundation seeks to “strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies” and supports “exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.” Most of Mellon’s visual arts grantmaking happens through its Arts and Cultural Heritage funding program.

Under the Arts and Cultural Heritage program, the foundation supports Intersections of Performing and Visual Arts and “pursues several goals that are germane to the performing as well as the visual arts today, and to their many overlapping challenges and practices.”  Mellon also supports Art History, Conservation, and Museums “to help shape and sustain art history and conservaton as dynamic and rigorous disciplines.”

Past Grantees include: $10 million to the Detroit Institute of the Arts to support the 'Grand Bargain' that will enable the museum to hold its collections for the public in perpetuity; $2 million to Yale University to endow the position of director of the Art Conservation Research Center; $1.8 million to the Cleveland Museum of Art to endow the position of a conservator of Chinese painting and support teaching residencies for senior-level conservators of Chinese painting; $1.45 million to the Met to support the conservation of Chinese paintings.

The foundation does not award grants to individuals and the great majority of grants are awarded by invitation only. What this means is that if Mellon does not invite an organization to apply, either on its own or through a submitted inquiry, it will not receive funding. See its Inquiries and Guidelines page for more information. Some of the Foundation's regranting programs through partnership organizations, however, can provide perhaps more accessible opportunities for smaller organizations.


  • Search for staff contact info and bios in PeopleFinder (paid subscribers only.)