Mellon Foundation Launches New Initiative to Support 1,500 Artists and Small Arts Organizations as COVID-19 Crisis Continues

artist speaking in gallery Photo courtesy of the Intercultural Leadership Institute.

Intercultural Leadership Institute Fund Seeded with $5 Million from Mellon to Distribute COVID Relief Grants to Artists and Cultural Organizations Flying Beneath the National Radar

NEW YORK, August 27, 2020 – The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation today announced a new effort to support smaller arts organizations, cultural producers, and artists across the nation as the impact of the COVID-19 crisis continues to reverberate. In partnership with the Intercultural Leadership Institute (ILI), an organization that promotes an intercultural approach to developing leaders within the arts and culture field, the Mellon Foundation is creating a new COVID-19 Crisis Relief Grant Fund for smaller artists and organizations. 

Mellon will deliver $5 million to the new fund, which will be distributed to artists and organizations in the form of Crisis Relief Grants ranging from $1,000 to $20,000 each, and provide financial and technological resources to lessen the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on livelihoods and the larger arts sector. The initiative is expected to support 1,500 artists and arts organizations nationwide serving cultural communities that historically and currently have been overlooked and that might be particularly vulnerable to the financial impact of the pandemic. 

 “From the inception of the Intercultural Leadership Institute,” said President Elizabeth Alexander, “the Mellon Foundation has supported ILI’s crucial mission to foster brilliantly inventive artists and cultural communities of color. The urgent need to address the profound distress that many of these exceptional individuals and organizations are experiencing as the pandemic continues impelled us to work quickly in partnership with ILI to fund the Crisis Relief Grants program. We’re delighted that these grants will offer immediate financial relief to dynamic arts and culture leaders throughout the United States.”

The Intercultural Leadership Institute is a collaborative program of Alternate ROOTS, First Peoples Fund, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, PA’I Foundation, and Sipp Culture. It promotes an intercultural approach to change-making and developing leaders within the arts and culture field. The organizations that comprise the ILI serve communities of American Indian and Alaskan Native culture-bearers and community development organizations serving Indian country, as well as Latinx artists across the country, from the Southwest to the Bay, the Midwest and New England, Native Hawaiians, artists in the Southeast, and rural communities in the Deep South. The five organizations that comprise the ILI have deep and nuanced knowledge of the community-based artists, culture bearers, and cultural organizations they serve, and are keenly aware of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on them. 

These new Crisis Relief Grants will support the artists and cultural communities the ILI serves, ones who often fly beneath the national radar, who understand the value of collaborations and alliances across ethnic, geographic, and intergenerational lines, and the importance of collective advocacy around issues of concern to diverse communities. Among the organizations that comprise the ILI, the $5 million in new funding will be distributed as follows: 

Specific application requirements and deadlines will appear on, as well as each organization’s respective website, in the coming weeks.

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.