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 you aren't affiliated with a large academic or art institution, so be forewarned.

KEY INFO: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation fine arts grantmaking revolves around three subjects — art history, consevration and museums. Total grant amounts for all three tend to hover around the $16 million mark, which makes up about one-third of Mellon's total annual payable and committed grants. We do have to note that the foundation typically pays out more than $209 million in grants annually, but this number includes multiyear grants appropriated and committed from years prior.

Taking a quick glance at the foundation's grantee list over the past few years, it looks as though universities and large arts institutions win the favor of Mellon grants:

  • $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

    If your artistic endeavors aren't affiliated with large universities and arts institutions such as those mentioned above, we have to say that your chances of getting your hands on a Mellon grant are pretty slim — and by slim, we mean close to nonexistent. If your artistic endeavors are affiliated with a large university or institution, here's what you're looking at:

    Museums. Mellon's support of museums is pretty straightforward. It include grants for:

    • Increased curatorial capacity
    • Endowment travel and research
    • Pre- and post-doctoral curatorial fellowships

    Art Conservation. If you're looking for funds to support the high cost of art conservation, Mellon can help out by providing grants for:

    • Increased research capacity
    • Support for scholarly publications
    • Establishment of new conservation departments and junior, senior, and postdoc conservators

    Finally, the Mellon Foundation will accept unsolicited proposals, but in its words, such proposals are "rarely funded." No grants are made to individual artists, conservationists, or researchers.

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