Mellon Foundation Grants More Than $16 Million to Richmond-Based Projects Focused on Exploration, Preservation, and Reimagining of the City’s Rich Historical Narratives

train shed exterior A train shed in Shockoe Bottom, Richmond, Virginia will be used to memorialize and commemorate the history of slavery. Photo: City of Richmond.

$11 Million Grant to City of Richmond for Shockoe Heritage Campus Interpretive Center in Shockoe Bottom is the Largest Single Grant from Mellon’s Monuments Project

(NEW YORK, NY – December 20, 2022) – The Mellon Foundation today announced more than $16 million in funding to support six Richmond-based organizations and projects that are examining, preserving and reimagining the city’s rich historical narratives. Included in the grants announced today is $11 million to the City of Richmond for a Shockoe Heritage Campus Interpretive Center in Shockoe Bottom designed to recognize and commemorate histories of the domestic slave trade, of freed people, Virginia’s indigenous groups, Jewish communities, and other immigrant populations. This funding, which underscores Mellon’s ongoing commitment to transformational place-based work, will provide projects and organizations actively exploring ways to understand and uplift more complete histories with support for their programming, development, expanded operational capacity and more.   

Representative of a dynamic convergence of history and historical reckoning, the City of Richmond and its institutions have extensively studied and interpreted their role in shaping the early United States through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. However, the City’s more complex histories, including its role in the slave trade, the establishment of Jim Crow laws, and the development and proliferation of Confederate iconography have been less openly explored. 

“Richmond has been the site of many stories that have shaped our understanding of who we are as Americans, but public commemoration in Richmond historically has been limited to only a few,” said Elizabeth Alexander, President of the Mellon Foundation. “Today, the people of this city are lifting up the collective memory of its historic Black communities, unflinchingly addressing the city’s past as the capital of the state with the most enslaved people prior to the Civil War, and participating in the reimagining of the city’s public spaces to better reflect the fullness of its history. We are proud to support the remarkable grantees across the city leading this work.” 

Mellon’s Richmond-based grantees include:  

  • The City of Richmond ($11 million) to support the planning, development, and initial operations of a cultural space located at the historic Shockoe Bottom train shed that memorializes and commemorates the history of slavery in Richmond 
  • The JXN Project: The Skipwith-Roper Homecoming and JXN Haus ($1.5 million) to support research and programming for redemptive storytelling around the pivotal role of Richmond – particularly Jackson Ward, the nation’s first historically registered Black urban neighborhood – in the evolution of the national Black American experience 
  • The Valentine Museum ($1.2 million) to reimagine the studio of Edward Valentine, sculptor of Lost Cause iconography; plan for reinterpretation of the Wickham House, a former site of enslavement; and provide deeper understanding of the Jim Crow era through powerful public experiences and expanded online resources. New research will encourage a broader and more honest interpretation of the history of both the Richmond region and the Valentine Museum. 
  • Cary Forward ($1 million, via fiscal sponsor Earshot Jazz Society of Seattle) to support a multidisciplinary arts space, interpretive center, artist/scholar residency, and archival library for Richmonders that combines imagination with knowledge about history, and aims to address false narratives and preserve and promote omitted history 
  • Untold RVA ($850K, via fiscal sponsor Non-Profit Connection) for supporting its organizational capacity to research the enslavement-era history of Richmond’s warriors for Black freedom and to develop walkable urban exploration routes with mobile phone-activated street art monuments that welcome visitors searching for their own family connections to the precolonial ancestor traditions of the African diaspora. 
  • Reclaiming the Monument ($670K via fiscal sponsor the Valentine Museum) to support its “Recontextualizing Richmond” public art project – a series of temporary light-based artworks addressing issues of historical, racial, and social justice in the city of Richmond, Virginia and the surrounding capital region 


About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation  
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.  

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Tonya Bell
Director of Media and Public Relations