Latinx Artist Fellowship, a Multi-Million Dollar Initiative to Support Latinx Artists in the U.S.

Latinx artists fellowship BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of fordfoundation.org

At a time when the world seems to be waking up from the dark episode of the COVID-19 pandemic, two of the nation’s largest philanthropic organizations have joined forces to bring visibility to Latinx artists in the United States.

The Ford Foundation and the Mellon Foundation, along with the U.S. Latinx Art Forum (USLAF), have created the Latinx Artist Fellowship. Over the next five years, the foundations will commit $5 million to the fellowship program, of which $3.75 million will go to 75 artists in the form of $50,000 unrestricted grants and the remainder to USLAF.

As Art News reported, the inaugural cohort of 15 Latinx artists selected for 2021 represents a mix of artists from different generations (five are emerging, five are mid-career, and five are established). They hail from across the country — from New York to Los Angeles to Texas to Massachusetts — and represent the diversity within the Latino community.

Those 15 artists are Elia Alba, Celia Alvarez Muñoz, Carolina Caycedo, Adriana Corral, Rafa Esparza, Christina Fernandez, Coco Fusco, Yolanda Lopez, Miguel Luciano, Guadalupe Maravilla, Carlos Martiel, Michael Menchaca, Delilah Montoya, Vick Quezada and Juan Sanchez.

“Giving each of the fellows $50,000 to do their work for a year will support them first and foremost, but with the power of the Mellon and the Ford foundations, this will bring visibility to this kind of initiative, and we hope to encourage museums to get on board,” Adriana Zavala, an art historian at Tufts University and the director of USLAF, said in an interview. “We wanted to create a deliberate and intentional jury process so that the full diversity of the very complicated Latinx community could be represented from gender, gender identity, ethno-racial, class, geographic, and disability. This is how you build a sustained legacy by supporting artists at all phases of their career.”

USLAF asked dozens of experts in contemporary Latino art to submit applications for the fellowships to assemble the inaugural cohort. Some 200 names emerged from this process and were submitted to a jury of curators from the initiative’s six partner museums: Rita Gonzalez at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Marcela Guerrero at the Whitney Museum in New York; Mari Carmen Ramirez at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Cesáreo Moreno at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, Rodrigo Moura at El Museo del Barrio in New York, and Sylvia Orozco at the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin, plus an independent curator, art historian Yasmin Ramirez.

Rocio Aranda-Alvarado, head of programs at the Ford Foundation, said that, in designing this initiative, the foundation discovered that only about 2% of total philanthropic giving goes to Latino-focused organizations. (Nearly 20% of the U.S. population identifies as Latino or Hispanic, and that number is expected to increase in the coming years.) Funding for Latinx organizations in arts and culture has been declining since 2013, falling from a high of $40.2 million that year to $13.2 million in 2019 (the latest figures available), according to Hispanics in Philanthropy’s Latinx Funders data sets.

“We hope that other foundations join us in this effort, especially those that focus on arts and culture and in regions of the country that have large Latinx populations, to come along with us and think about how they can also be supportive of these really important issues,” Aranda-Alvarado said.

With information from Art News.