The Ford Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation are teaming up to launch the only financial award in the US for disabled creatives from all disciplines. The initiative, called Disability Futures, aims to increase the visibility of disabled artists, address the lack of professional development opportunities available to them, and account for the unique financial challenges they face.
The program launches with an 18-month fellowship for 20 artists. Each will receive $50,000 to fund their work. United States Artists will administer the grants, which amount to a total of $1 million.
“Institutional structures have not served disabled artists in the past,” Emil Kang, director for Arts and Culture at Mellon Foundation, said. “Disability Futures is the result of listening, collaboration, and humble engagement.”
Some grantees will be familiar to much of the art world. Carolyn Lazard and Christine Sun Kim were included in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, Sun Kim performed the National Anthem in sign language at last year’s Super Bowl, and Tourmaline is an activist and filmmaker based in New York City. Other awardees, such as garment maker Sky Cubacub and dancer and choreographer Perel, have worked outside the fine-art context.
The initiative was born out of a year-long research study that involved interviewing dozens of disabled artists and creatives across the country to determine how philanthropists could better support their work. A group of disabled practitioners nominated and selected the fellows.
See the full list of fellows below.