Philly’s Monument Lab Awarded $4 Million Mellon Foundation Grant to Study Nation’s Monuments

Early today, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced the Monuments Project, an initiative to help reimagine the country’s monuments to reflect greater diversity and highlight marginalized stories. The philanthropic foundation also announced that the first grant in the initiative has been awarded to the Philadelphia-based public art and history studio Monument Lab.

Monument Lab received a $4 million grant from the Mellon Foundation entitled Beyond the Pedestal: Tracing and Transforming America’s Monuments. Monument Lab will use this grant to conduct an audit of the nation’s monuments, open ten Monument Lab field offices throughout 2021, and hire its first full-time staff.

The first project undertaken with the grant money will be the monument audit. During the audit, Monument Lab will conduct research on monuments across the country within a selected set of common monument subjects, including race, gender, and sexual orientation. Researchers will also gather data on reported protest activity tied to monuments. The data gathered during the audit will be the used in efforts to reimagine these monuments. Monument Lab plans to release the findings from the monument audit in spring 2021.

Elizabeth Alexander, President of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, described the importance of Monument Lab’s work. “We are proud to launch our new Monuments Project with our first partner, Monument Lab, and to support their work to more deeply learn and vibrantly reimagine our public spaces to better reflect the rich multiplicity of American stories. Through Beyond the Pedestal, Monument Lab will generate critical, comprehensive research to understand the commemorative landscape as it is, and to seed what it could become. We are energized about the transformative possibility of their work,” Alexander said.

The Mellon Foundation has pledged to spend $250 million over five years under the Monuments Project. Grants made under the initiative will fund projects to install new monuments, memorials, or historic storytelling spaces; contextualize existing monuments or memorials through installations, research, and education; or relocate existing monuments or memorials.