Mellon Foundation Advances Humanities and Arts Initiatives at UT Austin

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded three grants to The University of Texas at Austin under its Higher Learning program. The grants will establish programs to support scholars, journalists, artists and writers from places as diverse as Texas prisons and top-tier universities in Texas and Latin America, and include undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students and faculty members at UT Austin. The projects all advance work in line with the Mellon Foundation’s recent strategic expansion of support for social justice initiatives.

“Mellon Foundation support for a wide array of initiatives at UT indicates the caliber and innovative nature of work supporting diverse populations of scholars and students in the arts and humanities here at the university,” said Ann Huff Stevens, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Mellon on these programs that will impact artists and scholars on and beyond our own campus.”

The Mellon Foundation’s Higher Learning program aims to inform more complete and accurate narratives of the human experience and lay the groundwork for more just and equitable futures, accelerate the demographic transformation of U.S. academic faculties and institutional leadership to better reflect the population and center humanities expertise, and broaden equitable access to humanities higher learning opportunities.

The projects awarded under this umbrella are:

The University of Texas Mellon Fellowship for High Impact Scholars, Artists, and Journalists: The two-year, $1.2 million award will fund an initiative – run by Richard R. Flores, professor of anthropology and Mexican American and Latina/o studies and deputy to the president for academic strategies, and Ramón Rivera-Servera, professor and dean of the College of Fine Arts – that will host scholars, artists and journalists from Latin America for one-year fellowships at UT Austin, with the potential for renewals for a second year or at partner institutions in Puerto Rico. In addition to providing opportunities to international scholars, the program also advances the university’s mission under its Hispanic Serving Institution designation.

The Crip Narratives Collective: The $572,000 award will fund a regular convening of students with disabilities, postgraduate fellows, faculty members and artists over a three-year period at UT Austin. Through small- and large-group conversations, public events and publications, the collective will build a network of academic mentorship for people with disabilities at UT Austin and beyond. The program will be overseen by Julie Minich, associate professor in the departments of English and Mexican American & Latina/o Studies, and Alison Kafer, associate professor in the Center for Women’s & Gender Studies and the Department of English.

Pido la Palabra: A Texas Prison Literature Project for Social Justice and the Literary Imagination: The $500,000 award will fund a partnership between the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) and the Texas Prison Education Initiative (TPEI) to create Spanish-language creative writing courses in prisons, with an associated course taught at UT for undergraduate and graduate students. Run by Adela Pineda Franco, professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and director of LLILAS, and Sarah Brayne, associate professor in the Department of Sociology, the project received the award through the Mellon Foundation’s 2022 Call for Concepts.

“We seek to support not only inclusive analytical work, but also projects that creatively envision more just and equitable futures,” said Phillip Brian Harper, program director for Higher Learning at the Mellon Foundation. “These projects highlight the essential role of the humanities – including those disciplines concerned with the interpretation of expressive culture – in addressing out society’s most salient social issues, past and present.”

Through its grants, the Mellon Foundation seeks to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. The foundation makes grants in four core program areas: Arts and Culture, Higher Learning, Humanities in Place, and Public Knowledge.

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