Latinx Artist Fellowship aims to support artists with new $5 million initiative

Latinx Artist Fellowship aims to support artists with new $5 million initiative
A man kneels in front of a fire conducting a performance piece while spectators on either side look on.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Ford Foundation unite to fund new Latinx Artist Fellowship

A cohort of 15 artists will receive $50,000 each as part of the newly established Latinx Artist Fellowship. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Ford Foundation, and administered by U.S. Latinx Art Forum (USLAF), the initiative aims “to address a systemic lack of support, visibility and patronage” for artists of Latin American or Caribbean descent.

Starting with this year’s inaugural group, the program will roll out unrestricted funding annually over the course of five years to a total of 75 Latino artists born or living in the United States. The Mellon and Ford foundations have committed a combined $5 million to the project, and each artist named during the multi-year initiative will receive $50,000.

A hand with brown skin made from fabric and filled with material faces upward with a daisy held between the pointer finger and thumb.
Elia Alba, “Hold My Daisy,”2019. Courtesy of the artist. 

“USLAF is honored to collaborate with Ford and Mellon to continue our work of uplifting Latinx visual artists, especially since their long historical contributions to the American experience have been largely ignored and made invisible within the art world and academic ecosystems,” USLAF Director Adriana Zavala said in a statement announcing the program.

Chosen from a pool of more than 200 nominees by a panel of art historians, scholars and curators, the 2021 fellows span disciplines and generations, ranging from emerging to established artists. Elia Alba, Celia Álvarez Muñoz, Carolina Caycedo, Adriana Corral, rafa esparza, Christina Fernández, Coco Fusco, Yolanda López, Miguel Luciano, Guadalupe Maravilla, Carlos Martiel, Michael Menchaca, Delilah Montoya, Vick Quezada and Juan Sánchez make up this year’s selected group.

Artists come from across the country, with five fellows — Alba, Fusco, Luciano, Martiel and Sánchez — living and working in New York.

A black gas mask decorated with colorful feathers and multicolored beads is positioned against a bright pink backdrop.
Celia Álvarez Muñoz, “Petrocuatl,”1988. Courtesy of the artist.

The program fits into the larger Latinx Art Visibility Initiative, also backed by the Mellon and Ford foundations. The fellowship marks the first entry into the three-part program, which will also include later phases dedicated to providing museum support and partnerships in academia.

“The impact and influence of artists of Latin American and Caribbean descent deeply imbue the fabric of this country, yet their contributions have been underfunded and often unrecognized in the collections and texts that lift up our collective history and culture,” Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation, said. “We are thrilled to fund the Latinx Artist Fellowship to champion Latinx artists as they continue their extraordinary work.”

Three monitors display colorful animation and photographs of people; behind them, wallpaper features rows of lively characters and icons.
Michael Menchaca, “A Cage Without Borders,” 2021.

The initiative’s announcement pointed to a lack of support for Latino artists in the United States, noting a decline in annual funding for Latino arts and culture from 2013 to 2019. The initiative is designed to uplift the selected artists to “provide them with necessary financial support, expand and secure their place within art history, and encourage the growth of patronage,” according to the announcement.

“It is a privilege to support this talented, creative group of artists who have made an indelible impact on the American art canon,” Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, said. “We are proud to collaborate with the Mellon Foundation to shine a light on their work and hope this inspires further investment in Latinx creatives in the years to come.”

More information about the 2021 Latinx Fellows can be found on the Mellon Foundation website.

Top Image: rafa esparza, "building: a simulacrum of power," 2014. Photo: Dylan Schwartz.