Mellon Foundation Awards $1.5 Million Grant to IAAM

CHARLESTON, S.C. (April 18, 2019) – The New York-based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the International African American Museum (IAAM) a $1.5 million grant: $1 million to support the museum’s creation and construction and $500,000 to support the IAAM’s chief curatorial position.

“Our relationship with the Mellon Foundation began in earnest in 2017 when the IAAM was awarded a $150,000 grant, which enabled us to hire our Chief Curator one year ahead of schedule. We are proud that the Foundation has seen fit to extend its support of the IAAM’s curatorial leadership, thereby expanding its commitment to the creation of this great institution,” said Joseph P. Riley, Jr., IAAM board member and former Charleston mayor.

The Mellon Foundation was particularly interested in the museum’s mission of exploring the African Diaspora, the mass dispersion of millions of African people through the Transatlantic slave trade—a sprawling, international concept—through the lenses of Charleston, the Lowcountry and South Carolina. The grant will allow the IAAM to explore ways in which regional history is interconnected to the global story of Africans and African descendants, while illuminating Diasporic themes like resistance, creativity and resilience.

“The African Diaspora and the slave trade together form a complex story that spans continents, oceans and centuries of global history. The breadth and depth of this narrative is staggering and rich. We are intrigued by the IAAM’s approach of presenting this global story through a regional framework, relaying history in intelligible, novel ways that will resonate with visitors,” said Elizabeth Alexander, president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Charged with bringing that vision to life is Joys Bivins, the IAAM’s Chief Curator, whose position continues to be supported by the Mellon Foundation. Bivins joined the IAAM in 2018 after spending 16 years at the lauded Chicago History Museum.

“Joy brings a wealth of experience and subject matter expertise to our leadership team,” said Michael Boulware Moore, IAAM president and CEO. “Ultimately, this museum is about choosing and presenting stories in ways that are impactful and resonant with our visitors. Joy is a skilled museum professional who will do just that. We’re honored that the Mellon Foundation has chosen to extend its commitment to the IAAM in a meaningful and significant way, by supporting our curatorial efforts and playing a major role in funding the museum’s creation.”