Sarah Lawrence Awarded $1.2 Million Mellon Foundation Grant to Advance Civic Engagement in Westchester County

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The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Sarah Lawrence College a $1.2 million five-year grant to advance and support civic engagement through the arts and humanities in Westchester County. The award is the largest programmatic grant in Sarah Lawrence history.

Building on an almost 100-year history of excellence in liberal arts higher education, Sarah Lawrence will expand its role as a convener and intellectual and cultural hub to bolster ongoing community partnership activities. Working in collaboration with community partners, the college will utilize its mission, tools and infrastructure, as well as those of participating organizations, to achieve group and individual projects and to create an even more robust network of regional community institutions and constituencies.

“It is an honor to receive this grant from the Mellon Foundation and an exceptional opportunity to reimagine and expand upon Sarah Lawrence’s leadership role in the community,” said Sarah Lawrence President Cristle Collins Judd. “We are a small college with an outsized footprint in the world. Located at the intersection of Bronxville and Yonkers, Sarah Lawrence features renowned programs and faculty in the performing and visual arts, writing, and cultural studies, and is uniquely suited to spearhead this deepened collaboration. We look forward to further connecting with organizations across Westchester County to advance civic engagement and the arts and humanities in order to create a more cohesive and shared future that strengthens the fabric of our communities.”

This endeavor will be a team effort. A key component includes regular convenings with community partners and leaders like ArtsWestchester, the Hudson River MuseumWartburg, Yonkers and Bronxville school districts and libraries, and Young at Arts with the intention of creating an asset map and network of facilities and intellectual capital, as well as to foster a deepened culture of collaboration. Participating institutions will seek to amplify shared opportunities and inclusively work together to benefit a broader spectrum of constituencies, extending efforts and projects beyond stationary geographic boundaries.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for organizations throughout the region to come together and focus our efforts to advance the arts, humanities, and civic engagement,” said Masha Turchinsky, Director of the Hudson River Museum. “We are committed to engaging with the public; art and culture give us all a sense of place and shared experience from which to learn and grow. The Hudson River Museum is proud to align our efforts with Sarah Lawrence College and fellow partners to advance our shared goals in a powerful and genuine way."

Through this five-year grant, Sarah Lawrence and partner institutions will pursue five goals, with intention to refine and expand the framework during the grant’s timeline to fit the needs of the participants:

  • Support semi-annual convenings of leaders of public and private partner institutions to forge a new model of collaboration among these institutions;
  • Create an “asset map” of facilities and capacities that are available among the partner organizations as well as an interactive database and map of civic, cultural, and artistic resources available to the public in Westchester County;
  • Create a network of public humanities/arts fellows across partner civic and arts organizations;
  • Build new capacity in visual and digital story-telling that will serve as the basis of shared outreach with partner organizations; and
  • Support professional development for Sarah Lawrence faculty through curricular and pedagogical innovation related to this initiative.                                                           

Sarah Lawrence and its partners will lay the groundwork for these programs and activities during the first year of the grant (academic year 2019-2020). Participants will form a steering committee and also hire the first of the public humanities fellows and the digital and visual storytelling fellow, who will commence work in academic year 2020-2021. Early career academics, all fellows will split their time teaching courses at the College while completing their respective projects. Public humanities/arts fellows will be appointed to three-year terms, hosted by one of the participating organizations, and the visual/digital storytelling fellowship will be hosted by Sarah Lawrence College.

The fellows will focus their research and projects across Yonkers and Bronxville, connecting and advancing the missions and efforts of some of the major cultural institutions in the area to bring people together and help create and re-knit the civic fabric of the community. Host organizations will craft the position to their unique needs, but all fellows will use their background and academic expertise to expand their host organization’s reach and connection beyond geographic boundaries and strengthen the arts network of Westchester County.

About Sarah Lawrence College

Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence is a prestigious, coeducational liberal arts college that consistently ranks among the leading liberal arts colleges in the country. Sarah Lawrence is known for its pioneering approach to education, rich history of impassioned intellectual and civic engagement, and vibrant, successful alumni. In close proximity to the unparalleled offerings of New York City, the historic campus is home to an intellectually curious and diverse community.