Elizabeth Alexander, whose memoir was a finalist in 2016 for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award and who wrote and recited an original poem at Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural, will be the next president of theAndrew W. Mellon Foundation, the country’s largest humanities philanthropy.
“All of the things that I’ve cared about my whole life and worked toward my whole life Mellon does,” said Ms. Alexander in a telephone interview, citing areas like higher education and scholarship, arts and cultural heritage, and diversity.
She added that “arts and humanities are not the most protected entities right now.”
Ms. Alexander succeeds Earl Lewis, who has served since 2013. She will start in March, becoming the foundation’s first female president.
“She has deep experience in cultivating partnerships that extend and amplify creative vision,” Danielle Allen, the foundation’s chairwoman, said in a statement, adding that Ms. Alexander “brings an artist’s forward-looking energy to institutional purpose.”
Ms. Alexander, who has written six books of poetry and two essay collections, was most recently a humanities professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Before that, she served as the director of creativity and free expression at the Ford Foundation, where she helped design Agnes Gund’s $100 million Art for Justice Fund.
“This appointment is a milestone in the history of American philanthropy,” said Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation. “It’s the combination of being both rooted in the arts and grounded in the humanities and understanding philanthropy that is going to make her a success.”
Ms. Alexander has also worked closely with the Poetry Center at Smith College; the nonprofit Cave Canem, which trains aspiring poets; and Yale University, where she spent 15 years on the faculty and helped rebuild the African-American Studies department.
$1.5 million grant gifted to Michigan State University by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will go towards the cultivation of a database that harbors information about former slaves, MSU Today reported.
The database, which is part of the institution’sEnslaved: The People of the Historic Slave Trade initiative, will encompass data surrounding those who came to America during the Atlantic slave trade; giving individuals the opportunity to explore their ancestry, the news outlet writes. Individuals who utilize the database will also be able to view maps, charts, and graphics about enslaved populations.
The project is being spearheaded by Dean Rehberger, director of Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at MSU, Walter Hawthorne, professor and chair of MSU’s Department of History and Ethan Watrall, who serves as an assistant professor of anthropology at the university.
MSU Today reports that the project will go through several phases and take nearly a year and a half to be completed.
Hawthorne believes that the database will allow scholars to delve deeper into the dark history of slavery. “By linking data compiled by some of the world’s foremost historians, it will allow scholars and the public to learn about individuals’ lives and to draw new, broad conclusions about processes that had an indelible impact on the world,” he said in a statement, according to the source.
Michigan State University has one of the top African history graduate programs in the country and leaders at the institution believe that this new project will further its impact in this space. Institutions who have partnered with MSU for the project include Emory University, Vanderbilt University, Harvard University, the University of Maryland and others.
Slavery has been a common topic at colleges and universities across the country with many institutions coming forward to acknowledge and come to terms with their ties to slavery. Rutgers University recently paid tribute to former slaves by renaming parts of its campus after individuals who built the university from the ground up.
Fore presents twenty-nine emerging artists of African descent who live and work across the United States. Born between 1971 and 1987, the artists inFore work in diverse media, often blending artistic practices in new and innovative ways. While some artists create large-scale oil paintings, others draw on top of photographs, or combine sculpture and two-dimensional work. More than half of the works in Fore have never been exhibited publicly; some are site-specific and react directly to the Harlem neighborhood and its social landscape.
Fore is the fourth in a series of emerging artist exhibitions presented by the Studio Museum, following Freestyle (2001), Frequency (2005–06) andFlow (2008). This exhibition traces the development of artistic ideas sinceFlow, taking into account social, political and cultural conditions in the United States. Whether gathering and assembling everyday objects, referencing urban architecture and economies, or using film and video to mirror the transmission and reception of information through social media, the artists in Fore emphasize that contemporary art is deeply tied to its location, time and historical context. This exhibition investigates questions at the core of the Studio Museum’s mission, exploring art’s relationship to U.S. and global communities.
perFOREmance, two three-day performance presentations in December 2012 and February 2013, provides a platform for the new and commissioned performances in Fore.
Organized by Lauren Haynes, Naima J. Keith and Thomas J. Lax, Assistant Curators at the Studio Museum, Fore continues the Studio Museum’s mission as the nexus for artists of African descent, locally, nationally and internationally, and for work inspired by black culture.
Firelei Báez / b. 1980, Santiago, Dominican Republic; Lives and works in New York, New York Sadie Barnette / b. 1984, Oakland, California; Lives and works in Los Angeles, California Kevin Beasley / b. 1985, Alexandria, Virginia; Lives and works in New York, New York Crystal Z. Campbell / b. 1980, Prince George’s County, Maryland; Lives and works in New York, New York and Amsterdam, The Netherlands Caitlin Cherry / b. 1987, Chicago, Illinois; Lives and works in New York, New York Jamal Cyrus / b. 1973, Houston, Texas; Lives and works in Houston, Texas Noah Davis / b. 1983, Seattle, Washington; Lives and works in Los Angeles, California Abigail DeVille / b. 1981, New York, New York; Lives and works in New York, New York Zachary Fabri / b. 1977, Miami, Florida; Lives and works in New York, New York Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle / b. 1987, Louisville, Kentucky; Lives and works in Los Angeles, California Steffani Jemison / b. 1981, Berkeley, California; Lives and works in New York, New York Yashua Klos / b. 1977, Chicago, Illinois; Lives and works in New York, New York Eric Nathaniel Mack / b. 1987, Columbia, Maryland; Lives and works in New York, New York Harold Mendez / b. 1977, Chicago, Illinois; Lives and works in Chicago, Illinois Nicole Miller / b. 1982, Tucson, Arizona; Lives and works in Los Angeles, California Narcissister / b. 1971, New York, New York; Lives and works in New York, New York Toyin Odutola / b. 1985, Ife, Nigeria; Lives and works in San Francisco, California Akosua Adoma Owusu / b. 1984, Alexandria, Virginia; Lives and works in Alexandria, Virginia and Ghana Jennifer Packer / b. 1984, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Lives and works in New York, New York Taisha Paggett / b. 1976, Los Angeles, California; Lives and works in Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California Valerie Piraino / b. 1981, Kigali, Rwanda; Lives and works in New York, New York Nikki Pressley / b. 1982, Greenville, South Carolina; Lives and works in Los Angeles, California Jacolby Satterwhite / b. 1986, Columbia, South Carolina; Lives and works in New York, New York, and Provincetown, Massachussetts Sienna Shields / b. 1976, Rainbow, Alaska; Lives and works in New York, New York and Rainbow, Alaska Kianja Strobert / b. 1980, New York, New York; Lives and works in Hudson, New York Jessica Vaughn / b. 1983, Chicago, Illinois; Lives and works in New York, New York Cullen Washington Jr. / b. 1976, Alexandria, LA; Lives and works in New York, New York Nate Young / b. 1981, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania; Lives and works in St. Paul, Minnesota Brenna Youngblood / b. 1979, Riverside, California; Lives and works in Los Angeles, California
Fore is made possible thanks to Leadership Support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Major support provided by Jacques and Natasha Gelman Trust and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support provided by the Ed Bradley Family Foundation.
Earl Lewis, the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of History and African American Studies at Emory University, has been selected as the next president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The foundation, headquartered in New York City, has over $5 billion in assets and in 2011 issued $230 million in grants. Dr. Lewis will take on his new role in March 2013.