The Largest Grantmaking Year in Mellon’s History

dancers, in monochromatic costumes with bright pink belts, performing outside and surrounded by a dizzying amount of colorful streamers Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko performs at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of JACCC.

This year, we have been inspired to do more than ever before as our grantees rose to meet today’s challenges through their work in the arts and humanities: With more than $500 million awarded to a range of projects across the US and Puerto Rico, 2021 is the largest giving year in the Mellon Foundation’s 52-year history.

Our grantees are meeting today’s challenges while also helping address historical inequities, uncover untold stories, and bridge the past to the future.

Driven by the belief that artists are essential workers who illuminate our shared human experience and anchor our communities, we introduced groundbreaking new categories of support in 2021. This year’s grantmaking in Arts and Culture included fellowships for individual artists working across a range of disciplines. At the same time, we have continued to support institutions across the country that foster exceptional creative practice, making more than 150 grants totaling over $100 million for the arts in 2021. 

We awarded more than $140 million in Higher Learning grants in 2021 to support diversify and equity at institutions of higher learning across the US and to reimagine how the humanities can make meaning of— and move the needle on— today’s critical conversations. Today’s learners are tomorrow’s visionaries. 

Because preserving our history is essential to our future, Mellon’s Public Knowledge program supports local, national, and global libraries, archives, and presses. Whether digital or physical, public or academic, these spaces— often rich with historical images and artifacts— offer us a better understanding of our past, and in doing so, help us prepare for the future. This year’s 61 Public Knowledge grantees are ensuring that preservation of knowledge is a priority, and that 21st-century tools are created to be inclusive and to allow for respectful sharing of cultural heritages. 

In 2021, we introduced our first new grantmaking category in 30 years. Through Humanities in Place, we support innovative public spaces of learning, expression, and exchange that convey a fuller, more complex American story by deepening the range of how and where our stories are told.  


These are just some of this year’s highlights, with more to come in 2022, including updates from Creatives Rebuild New York; continued exploration of America’s commemorative landscape through the Monuments Project; new categories of support for artists and institutions of higher learning; and continued conversations with visionaries, artists, and educators via our Mellon Events series.  

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