What's Behind Mellon's $2 Million Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program?

Pablo Picasso once said, "All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."

We'd like to amend that statement by saying, "The problem is how to remain an artist and pay rent once he grows up."

Frequent readers of IP's ongoing arts coverage know that we're particularly interested in what happens to artists as they're trying to build careers. Artists can be burdened by the expectation to make a living doing art, only to find themselves broke, exhausted, and, most alarmingly, ill-equipped to find suitable employment elsewhere.

As such, we frequently examine how foundations and nonprofit organizations help artists transition to a parallel career track. It's a great alternative. They can resist the urge to go to law school while finding respectable employment in their preferred field.

Leading this charge is the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. We recently looked at the foundation's $1 million challenge grant to provide University of Delaware Art Conservation graduate students with an increased stipend of $20,500 each. It also awarded a $1.75 million grant to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) for the creation of its Artist Initiative project, which incorporates living artists into its approach to art conservation and collections research.

Its goal is simple. Mellon aims to transform the field of art conservation into a respectable, viable, and well-paying career path for artistically inclined individuals.

But Mellon's field of vision extends beyond the realm of art conservation. The foundation spent over $2 million to create the Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program, which provides specialized training in the curatorial field for students across the United States from diverse backgrounds. Mellon just announced its inaugural cast of fellows hailing from The Art Institute of Chicago, the High Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), and Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

The program is open to freshman and sophomore undergraduates of historically underrepresented groups in the curatorial field, and who are located near the partner museums.

Much like its work in the field of art conservation, Mellon hopes to transform curatorial studies into — you guessed it — a respectable, viable, and well-paying.. well, you know the rest.