New York, NY, July 7, 2015 — The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced the appointment of Ella Baff as Senior Program Officer for Arts and Cultural Heritage. In this newly created role, Baff will lead the Foundation's grant-making program that seeks to nurture exceptional creative accomplishment, scholarship, and art conservation practices while promoting a diverse and sustainable ecosystem for the arts. Baff comes to the Foundation from Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, where she has been executive and artistic director since 1998. She will join the Foundation on October 15, 2015.
"Ella Baff is a proven professional who combines experience, enthusiasm, and verve," said Earl Lewis, president of the Mellon Foundation. "Her range of experience in theater, dance, and music of all genres will help us increase our effectiveness and identify new opportunities. Ella will be a great asset to the Foundation."
In 2014, Mellon brought together longstanding programs in Performing Arts and in Art History, Conservation, and Museums to enable the Foundation to respond nimbly to evolving work at the intersections of different arts disciplines and different types of institutions.
"Ella has led the Pillow, a National Medal of Arts recipient and one of the nation's longest-running dance organizations for 17 years," said Mariët Westermann, vice president of the Foundation. "What impressed us was the breadth of her knowledge of the different arts disciplines and art organizations as well as her understanding of the role of the arts in higher education and in underserved communities. As the Foundation is implementing its strategic plan, we look forward greatly to having her enhance and complement the great strengths of our Arts and Cultural Heritage team."
Stated Baff: "I am honored to be joining the Mellon Foundation, a great and forward-thinking institution that sustains and champions the arts and humanities. As the Senior Program Officer for Arts and Cultural Heritage, my commitment to the field continues in a new way, through philanthropy. I look forward to working with distinguished leaders at the Foundation and across the cultural field."
Baff has a strong history of developing cultural and educational projects that use creative mediums to engage diverse communities and explore societal issues. Under her leadership, Jacob's Pillow has expanded its artistic, education, and community programs as well as its archives, scholars, fellows, and preservation programs; established a media and digital division; established the organization's first endowment, cash reserve and capital reserve; and expanded the campus and commissioned a master plan for its now 225 acres. In 2003, Jacob's Pillow was designated a National Historic Landmark, and in 2011, Baff accepted the National Medal of Arts on behalf of the Pillow from President Barack Obama at the White House.
Prior to leading Jacob's Pillow, Baff was program director of Cal Performances at the University of California at Berkeley, one of the largest performing arts centers in the US. She was Executive Producer of Never Stand Still, an award-winning documentary aired on PBS Great Performances series and released worldwide. She also created the National Dance Presenters Leadership Forum, which offers presenters of ballet, modern dance, and dance of non-Western traditions opportunities to exchange ideas and develop solutions to shared challenges.
Baff has received several awards in the cultural field including a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Culture, the William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and Honorary Doctorates from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and College of the Holy Cross. She has been named one of the "Top 25 Most Influential and Powerful People in the Arts" by Inside Arts Magazine. She has twice Co-chaired the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) Congress in New York. She is currently the Chair of The Gish Prize, and serves on the Board of Directors of MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art).
About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.