The organisation behind the prestigious Fulbright fellowship is launching a new programme to rescue artists from conflict zones. The Artist Protection Fund, a three-year pilot project led by the Institute of International Education and funded with $2.79m from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, offers grants to threatened artists and places them at host universities or art centres in friendlier foreign countries.
“Threats against just one individual artist can have an immediate chilling effect on entire artistic communities,” Allan Goodman, the president of the Institute of International Education, said at a launch event at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. “Our goal is to build connections and skills that will help the artists to thrive after the fellowship is over and enrich the artistic communities that host them.”
The programme is modelled after a similar initiative the institute started for threatened scholars in 2002. The Scholar Rescue Fund has given grants to more than 600 academics from 53 countries. The institute identified the need for a new programme after receiving applications from artists, including two musicians from Syria, who were in immediate danger but ineligible for the Scholar Rescue Fund. To fill the gap, the Artist Protection Fund targets artists who have been persecuted because of their work or beliefs. Host organisations will be asked to match the fellowship grant with in-kind support such as housing, studio space and art supplies. Applications are not yet open, but artists can sign up online to be notified when they are.
While emergency arts grants in the US and Europe offer short-term solutions, the institute identified a “critical unmet need” to provide safe haven to artists on a large scale for extended periods—ideally, until they can return to their home country or permanently re-settle in a more hospitable place. The institute has not provided details on the selection process, the length of fellowships or the amount of money available. The Scholar Rescue Fund offers fellowships of up to $25,000 per year for up to two years and prioritises academics with the highest degree in their field.
“The programme will enable [artists’] work and voices to continue to be seen and heard, which, as many artists tell us, is of critical importance to them,” says Mariët Westermann, the vice president of the Mellon Foundation. In addition to the $2.79m grant, the Mellon Foundation provided seed funding for international arts organisations and experts to meet last October and discuss the scope of the problem and possible solutions.
“The benefits will accrue to the artists and their families; their host and home communities; and the larger world in which their art can continue to play a prominent role,” Westermann says.