Ford Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Announce Disability Futures Fellows

NEW YORK, Oct. 14, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Today, the Ford Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced the Disability Futures Fellows,…

NEW YORK, Oct. 14, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Today, the Ford Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced the Disability Futures Fellows, the recipients of an 18-month initiative administered by United States Artists that aims to increase the visibility of disabled creative practitioners across disciplines and geography and elevate their voices individually and collectively.

Through the fellowship, the foundations will support 20 disabled creative practitioners whose work advances the cultural landscape. Each fellowship includes a $50,000 grant to advance each artist’s practice, totaling $1 million for the cohort overall. This fellowship is the only national, multidisciplinary award for disabled artists and creative practitioners.

Disability Futures was born out of a year-long research study that interviewed dozens of disabled artists and creative practitioners across the country to inform how Ford, Mellon, and other philanthropies can better serve disabled artists and creatives. While a philanthropic investment, Disability Futures is intentionally designed by, for, and with disabled practitioners at many levels. Disabled practitioners prompted the initiative and fellows were nominated and selected by disabled practitioners.

Through the fellowship, Ford and Mellon hope to address field-wide problems in arts and culture, journalism, and documentary film—including, a dearth of disability visibility in the cultural sector, lack of professional development opportunities accessible to disabled practitioners, and the need for a national grant program that considers the unique financial challenges of disabled artists.

«It is a privilege to recognize this array of creative professionals and lift up their contributions to the arts, journalism, and documentary film,» said Margaret Morton, Director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation. «Artists and creatives provoke us with ideas, adorn us with beauty, and lead us to action. It is critical that we engage with disabled practitioners’ perspectives and elevate their narratives. We hope that this fellowship will prompt more attention for and engagement with disability-led content, productions, and projects in the years to come.»

«Institutional structures have not served disabled artists in the past,» said Emil Kang, Program Director for Arts and Culture at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. «Disability Futures is the result of listening, collaboration, and humble engagement and we at Mellon are pleased to recognize and support these outstanding artists directly.»  

The recipients come from communities across the country, where they work as artists, activists, and educators. The Disability Futures Fellows are:

Alice Sheppard (she, her, hers)


Los Altos, CA

Alice Wong (she, her, hers)


San Francisco, CA

Carolyn Lazard (they, them, theirs)

Interdisciplinary Artist

Plymouth Meeting, PA

Christine Sun Kim (she, her, hers)


Fullerton, CA

Eli Clare (he, him, his)

Poet, Essayist

Burlington, VT

Jeffrey Yasuo Mansfield (he, him, his)


Boston, MA

Jen Deerinwater (Jen, Jen Deerinwater)

Journalist, Non-Fiction Creative Writer, Memoirist, & Photographer

Washington, DC

Jerron Herman (he, him, his)


New York, NY

Jim LeBrecht (he, him, his)

Film Director and Producer

Berkeley, CA

John Lee Clark (he, him, his)


Hopkins, MN

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

(they, them, theirs, she, her, hers)

Writer & Performance Artist

Seattle, WA

Mia Mingus (she, her, hers)

Writer & Journalist

Oakland, CA

Navild (niv) Acosta (he, him, his)

Multi Media

Dance, Music & Sound, Visual Art

Brooklyn, NY

Patty Berne (she, her, hers, they, them, theirs)

Artistic Director, Filmmaker, & Writer

Berkeley, CA

Perel (they, them, theirs)

Performance Artist, Dancer, Choreographer, & Writer

New York, NY

Riva Lehrer (she, her, hers)

Painter & Writer

Chicago, IL

Rodney Evans (he, him, his)


Brooklyn, NY

Ryan J. Haddad (he, him, his)

Playwright & Performer

New York, NY

Sky Cubacub (they, them, theirs)

Garment Maker

Chicago, IL

Tourmaline (she, her, hers, they, them,   theirs)


Brooklyn, NY

To learn more about the Disability Futures Fellows and their work please visit:


The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through grantmaking, the Foundation seeks to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.


United States Artists is a national arts funding nonprofit that supports the country’s most compelling artists and cultural practitioners. Since its founding in 2006, the organization has awarded more than 600 individuals with over $30 million of direct support.

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SOURCE Ford Foundation