the Mellon Foundation announced its latest round of grantmaking through The Monuments Project—a commitment to give $250 million by 2025 to transform the nation’s commemorative landscape through public projects that more completely and accurately represent the multiplicity and complexity of American stories. This summer, nine grants totaling $25 million will be awarded directly to municipalities to fund publicly oriented initiatives, bringing total grantmaking through The Monuments Project past its halfway mark to $151.9 million.
Launched in 2020 as one of the Foundation’s Presidential Initiatives, the Monuments Project builds on Mellon’s efforts to express, elevate, and preserve the stories of those who have often been denied historical recognition, and explores how we might foster a more complete telling of who we are as a nation.
At its core, The Monuments Project aims to create spaces that will be accessible to everyone and promote stories that are not already represented in commemorative spaces. This new approach to giving—a departure from the initiative’s typical grantmaking to nonprofits and organizations doing monuments-related work—will touch a diverse range of regions and expand communities’ understanding of what a monument can be. The nine new grants announced today will support projects in Asheville, North Carolina; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Columbus, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Los Angeles, California; Portland, Oregon; Providence, Rhode Island; and San Francisco, California. Details about each award can be found below.
The addition of these city-centric initiatives brings the total number of grants to 67, many of which are underway and nearing completion. This past April, the Sealaska Heritage Institute unveiled its first set of totem poles in Juneau, Alaska through the Kootéeyaa Deiyí Totem Pole Project. The Irei Names Monument at the University of Southern California, which honors and memorializes persons of Japanese ancestry who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II, invites visitors to stamp a corresponding Ireichō (“book to console the spirits”) as means of remembrance through the fall of 2023. Meanwhile, in Memphis, the Riverfront Development Corporation’s site-specific A Monument to Listening—which is being designed by acclaimed artist and social innovator Theaster Gates—is set to open in Tom Lee Park this September.
“It seems more important than ever that cities grapple thoughtfully and publicly with the complexities of their histories,” said artist Theaster Gates. “For Memphis, the story of Tom Lee and his valor is unrivaled, yet he has remained an unsung hero. Having this moment to celebrate him at Tom Lee Park gives the entire city the opportunity to remember the tremendous accomplishments made by its citizens.”
“Through the monuments and memorials that mark them, our civic spaces are where many of us first learn about the American Story,” said Elizabeth Alexander, President of the Mellon Foundation. “These grants strengthen new possibilities for commemoration in American cities so we can better understand that story and the history that informs it, and so we can celebrate the collective achievements and extraordinary acts these new monuments and memorials will honor in civic spaces across the country.”
“This generous grant from the Mellon Foundation supports the City's efforts to tell the story of the little known largest mass killing in Los Angeles history and to convey a broader, more universal message,” said Daniel Tarica, General Manager of the City of Los Angeles’s Department of Cultural Affairs. "The new memorial seeks to simultaneously raise public awareness of the 1871 Chinese massacre – in which at least 18 residents of Los Angeles, or roughly ten percent of the city’s Chinese population at the time, were murdered – and to address contemporary concerns about race, intolerance, and violence.”
Image : “Visual Artists - The Continuous Thread: Celebrating Our Interwoven Histories, Identities and Contributions," 2019. Seated, front left: Huyana Mumby (Powhatan/KonKow/Tlingit/Kaska Dene) and Tisina Parker (Southern Sierra Miwuk, Mono Lake Paiute, Kashia Pomo). Seated in back left: Emmanuel Montoya (Apache), L. Frank Manriquez (Tongva), and standing, Keith Secola, Jr. (Ute/Ojibwe). Photo: Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie, courtesy of San Francisco Arts Commission
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