Artist and Funder: Transforming How a Major Philanthropic Foundation Operates

"[Elizabeth] Alexander came to the organization with a specific mandate, she said, of 'sharpening the focus—doing all the work, every penny, through a social justice lens.' That meant asking what she called sharper questions," writes Maximilíano Durón in ArtNews' profile of Alexander's leadership at the helm of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation since 2018. “What are the stories that we haven’t heard about? What are the cultural points of view that have not been centered? What are the units that have not been resourced or uplifted?”

Throughout the piece, Durón covers Alexander's career and contributions to the cultural field as both an artist and a grantmaker, centering on her leadership as the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has taken a bold direction in supporting racial equity and social justice. Since 2018, the foundation has led or partnered in helping sustain Puerto Rico’s cultural ecosystem, supporting Creatives Rebuild New York, to provide income and employment directly to artists as part of Covid relief, and put new emphasis on collaboration with the Ford Foundation - in 2020 establishing the Disability Futures Initiative, which will give $50,000 grants to disabled artists through 2025 and again in 2021 establishing the Latinx Art Visibility initiative, which is distributing $50,000 grants to 75 Latinx artists over five years and will also help support museums and academics in the field. As the world evolves, so too must grantmaking. Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation and often collaborator, remarks of the work of grantmakers of this time, "Every organization, if it’s going to be relevant and have impact, must evolve, continue to change, experiment, ideate.”

Read the full story here.