The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s $250 million Monuments Project grant-making initiative has announced five individual recipients, spanning from Los Angeles’s Miracle Mile to Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, to be awarded with funds to further their respective efforts to reimagine and reshape commemorative spaces, particularly those celebrating and telling the stories of Americans who have been historically overlooked or underrepresented.
Launched last October, the five-year initiative describes itself as one that financially aids “efforts to recalibrate the assumed center of our national narratives to include those who have often been denied historical recognition. This work has taken on greater urgency at a moment of national reckoning with the power and influence of memorials and commemorative spaces.” At launch, the Mellon Foundation named Monument Lab as the program’s inaugural award recipient. With its $4 million grant, the Philadelphia-based public art and research studio will continue its work in creatively reframing existing monuments in major cities—many of them erected for the sole purpose of oppression and intimidation—and conducting an audit of the “existing national monument landscape across the United States.”
The five newly revealed grantees/projects—the first to be announced since the launch of the Monuments Project—are:
Emmett Till Interpretive Center: “Preserving the Legacy of Emmett Till Through Expansion of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center”
The Emmett Till Interpretive Center will receive $691,750 in operational funding that will enable the museum to continue its “racial healing efforts” including historic preservation, community building initiatives across the Mississippi Delta, and “a year-long strategic planning process to coordinate the preservation of the Mamie and Emmett Till story across the Mississippi Delta and in Chicago,” as noted in an announcement released by the Mellon Foundation. The Center is located in Sumner, the same small Mississippi town where, in 1955, the two men who kidnapped and lynched Emmitt Till, a 14-year-old Black Chicagoan visiting family in the area, stood trial and were later acquitted for the barbaric act by an all-white jury.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA): “Monumental Perspectives”
LACMA will receive $1.2 million over the span of three years to continue developing and expanding the museum’s recently announced partnership with Snap Inc. that will see augmented-reality monuments and murals—all created by local artists and technologists and viewable exclusively on the Snapchat app—virtually rise in different communities/locales across the greater L.A. region. As previously noted by AN, the first five emerging artists to participate in the digital public art program are I.R. Bach, Mercedes Dorame, Glenn Kaino, Ruben Ochoa, and Ada Pinkston; each will collaborate with Snap Lens Creators and work directly with historians and community stakeholders to examine “key moments and figures in the region’s past and present that have too often been overlooked,” according to LACMA.
MASS Design Group: “Public Memory and Memorial Lab”
Boston-based architecture firm MASS Design Group will receive a grant of $500,000 over two years to “support research and work for organizations and individuals who seek to imagine, design, and build new monument projects across the nation,” per the Mellon Foundation. “MASS Design Group will provide direct support to organizations on projects that engage memorialization, collective memory, and truth-telling.”
Prospect New Orleans: “Monuments: A Proposal”
This two-year, $2 million grant will help to fund the commissioning of headlining artists for the fifth edition of Prospect New Orleans, a citywide contemporary art triennial set to take place in October of this year following a COVID delay. Titled Yesterday we said tomorrow, the 2021 P.5 exhibition will “highlight monuments and their power to both create and complicate history, as well as new public works that engage how the city—still home to ten Confederate monuments—commemorates history,” according to the Mellon Foundation.
Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC): “The Great Wall of Los Angeles”
Allocating $5 million over three years, the grant awarded to SPARC will enable the L.A.-based nonprofit to “support the preservation, activation, and expansion of one of the country’s largest monuments to interracial harmony through civic engagement and muralist training,” according to the Mellon Foundation. The funds will also support muralist and SPARC co-founder Judy Baca’s Great Wall of Los Angeles—SPARC’s inaugural project and one of the largest murals in the world— by advancing work on the mural and developing “digital techniques and resources for future artists and enhance community engagement.”
“Monuments and memorials powerfully shape our understanding of our country’s past, and determine which narratives we honor and celebrate in the American story,” said Elizabeth Alexander, President of the Mellon Foundation, in a statement. “Future generations ought to inherit an inclusive commemorative landscape that elevates the visionary contributions and remarkable experiences of the many different communities that make up the United States. With these five grants, we are affirming our commitment to support organizations engaged in creating and contextualizing monuments and memorials that convey the extraordinary multiplicity of our complex history.”