Arts and Cultural Heritage

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The arts constitute fields of inquiry and production that are distinct from other forms of thought and expression.  Accumulated over millennia, our global artistic heritage is a resource for cultural renewal as well as historical understanding.  Through performances, objects, and images, artists have long provoked insight and pleasure, and enriched and reflected on human experience.  In contemporary society, they stimulate innovation, reinvent media, articulate cultural critique, and work with communities to effect change.

Mission and Goals

The Arts and Cultural Heritage program seeks to nurture exceptional creative accomplishment, scholarship, and conservation practices in the arts, while promoting a diverse and sustainable ecosystem for these disciplines.  The program supports the work of outstanding artists, curators, conservators, and scholars, and endeavors to strengthen performing arts organizations, art museums, research institutes, and conservation centers.  Alongside our continued commitments to exemplary programs in the performing arts, art history, and conservation, new areas and strengthened emphases include:

  • Programs that strengthen the creation and preservation of, as well as scholarship about, new media and multidisciplinary arts
  • Initiatives that broaden public access to and understanding of the arts
  • Research, training, and recruitment programs that enhance diversity and inclusion in arts organizations
  • Collaborations between institutions of higher education and the arts
  • Efforts to address vulnerabilities distinctive to the arts, such as the financial health of small arts organizations and emergency preparedness and response

Putting Creative Industries to Work

On the release of "Creative Industries: Business & Employment in the Arts," Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research and Policy at Americans for the Arts, writes about how new research documents the size and scope of the nation’s arts establishments and jobs—and makes the case for increased investment in the arts.

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Puerto Rico: After The Storm

Northwestern University performance studies professor and department chair Ramón H. Rivera-Servera has spearheaded an innovative outreach initiative to assist Puerto Rican artists in the aftermath of last fall’s devastating hurricanes. Article by Kerry Trotter and Cara Lockwood, originally appearing in Dialogue, a publication of Northwestern University.

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Spelman College Museum: A Case Study

A case study examining how Spelman College Museum contributes to diversification of the curatorial pipeline.

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Herbert Siguenza Tells His Own Stories

Herbert Siguenza has held many roles—action figure, voiceover artist, and co-founder of the Chicano performance troupe Culture Clash. Now he takes on the role of playwright-in-residence at the San Diego Repertory Theatre.

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Behind the Scenes: Assessing the National Playwright Residency Program

Established in 2012, the National Playwright Residency Program seeks to empower playwrights by embedding them in producing theaters. Here, a summary of Helicon Collaborative’s Report on the program’s impact.

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Art in America: Supporting a New Generation of Curators

The Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship program is designed to diversify the curatorial ranks in museums across America.

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Enriching our Communities, Part 1: An Analysis of Museums as Economic Engines

A Mellon Foundation-supported study by the American Alliance of Museums and Oxford Economics highlights the need for a greater understanding of the full scope of how museums benefit our lives and the economy.

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Pushing Boundaries: Sanchita Balachandran and the Art of Conservation

“Conservation in the 21st century can no longer just be about objects,” says Balachandran. “Conservation also has to be about the people whose lives are inscribed on them.”

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Better Together: Public and Private Funding for the Arts

"Relegating arts support to the private sector alone would leave millions of people behind," writes National Assembly of State Arts Agencies CEO Pam Breaux.

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In the Absence of Federal Arts Funding

Mellon Foundation President Earl Lewis on how the NEA and the NEH have empowered generations of ideas, which might otherwise have never come to light.

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Chicago Sings

Lyric Opera of Chicago brings voices of the community to the stage.

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Putting Artists at the Center of Conservation

SFMOMA’s Artist Initiative takes a mutually reinforcing approach to curating, conserving and displaying contemporary works.

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Talking Museum Diversity with Johnnetta Cole

One year after the release of Mellon's Comprehensive Survey on Diversity Among Museum Staffs, the president of the Association of Art Museum Directors talks about the next steps.

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Can Plays Looking Back at US History Offer a Way Forward?

Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s (OSF) “American Revolutions” project is the nonprofit regional theater company’s biggest undertaking since was founded in 1935. More than 100 playwrights, historians, and partner institutions are collaborating on the creation of 37 plays, each about a critical moment of change and importance in American history.

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