The Ford Foundation has announced an initiative designed to explore the roles art and culture play in illuminating and addressing urgent issues of equity, opportunity, and justice.
Over the next twelve months, the foundation will bring together thinkers, artists, cultural leaders, and activists from around the world for a series of conversations to help determine how the foundation can most effectively advance the arts — and, by extension, drive social change. As part of the initiative, the foundation has awarded thirteen fellowships to artists and cultural leaders whose work addresses issues of equity and justice, giving them the opportunity to study issues that intersect with the foundation's work and reflect the cultural richness of diverse communities around the world. This year's visiting fellows are Robert Battle, artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; author Amitav Ghosh; Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of Studio Museum in Harlem; playwright David Henry Hwang; London-based music producer and filmmaker Deeyah Khan; Brooklyn Museum director Arnold Lehman; Joy Mboya, executive director of GoDown Arts Centre in Nairobi, Kenya; filmmaker Laura Poitras; Oregon Shakespeare Festival artistic director Bill Rauch; singer, composer, musician, and producer Toshi Reagon; visual artist Pedro Reyes of Coyoacán, Mexico; activist, jurist, and author Albie Sachs of Johannesburg, South Africa; and visual artist Carrie Mae Weems.
"Changes in the world around us demand, more than ever, that we recognize and celebrate art, creativity, and freedom of expression as the revolutionary forces they are," said Ford Foundation president Darren Walker. "Widening inequality, growing extremism, evolving technology, and volatile markets render art—and its unique role in effecting social change — more important, not less, for societies today."