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Mellon Foundation Invests $400K for Interchange Program

A group of people appearing to be a variety of ages, ethnicities, and genders, walk together outdoors on a farm in the sunshine while picking herbs and flowers.

Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) is pleased to announce the renewal of Interchange, a program empowering artists dedicated to fostering social change in their communities, generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This initiative will grant $25,000 practice-based fellowships to 16 regional artists, providing crucial support for their socially-engaged creative practices.

Word Inter is stacked on top of change, both in yellow

The Interchange program, rooted in M-AAA’s commitment to nurturing the cultural fabric of communities across the heartland, acknowledges the pivotal role individual artists play as catalysts for change and community resilience. Artists, with their ability to navigate diverse perspectives and address civic challenges, emerge as connectors capable of inspiring dialogue and activating neighborhoods.

The application for the third cohort will open online February 20, 2024.

Sign up for an application reminder by subscribing to the M-AAA e-newsletter.

Todd Stein, president and CEO of Mid-America Arts Alliance says, “We appreciate the Mellon Foundation and its recognition of the enduring impact of the Interchange program for artists engaged in social practice. Their visionary backing reinforces the long-term significance of connecting arts, culture, and community resilience and furthers M-AAA’s mission to empower artists. By championing individual artists as catalysts for societal change, the foundation’s support continues to be a meaningful and transformative force, resonating deeply across our six-state region and beyond.”

How Interchange is Different

Unlike many other grant programs, these practice-based grants are not specific to one art project, but rather to the artist’s overall creative practice, acknowledging the importance of experimentation, exploration, and the artistic process. Practice-based grants offer the freedom to push boundaries, take creative risks, and explore uncharted territories without predefined expectations. The support allows artists to not only refine their skills, and deepen their artistic voice, but also allows them to think big and renew their spirits and resources—ultimately fostering more vibrant communities throughout our region. 

Dark-skinned male-presenting person with denim overalls and hat hands part of a plant over a fence to a medium-dark-skinned female-presenting person at a sunny farm.

2021 Interchange artist Ryan Tenney (left) with a guest on his farm.

“Investing in artists through practice-based grants is more than a financial contribution; it’s an acknowledgment of the essential nature of creativity,” says Diane Scott, director of M-AAA’s Artist Services. “By recognizing and nurturing the artistic journey rather than just the destination, forward-thinking funders like the Mellon Foundation play a vital role in supporting artists’ well-being. This approach helps ensure that artists, engaged in critical work within their communities, receive the support they deserve, valuing their contributions to the cultural landscape.”

In addition to the $25,000 funding, grantees participate in professional development experiences, gain access to a peer network, and receive one-on-one mentoring—reinforcing the artists’ impact on societal change.

About Interchange

Since its inception in 2019, Interchange has awarded two cohorts, totaling 32 artists across various communities in the region.

The upcoming third cohort, with applications opening online on February 20, 2024, continues the program’s mission to support individual artists with impactful experience in socially-engaged creative work. Interested artists from Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas are encouraged to apply.

For full guidelines and eligibility criteria, please visit interchangeartistgrant.art.

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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 our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at mellon.org.


Header photography: 2021 Interchange grantee Ryan Tenney’s farm. Photographer Amanda Julia Steinback.