The Ford and Andrew W. Mellon foundations have joined forces to launch Disability Futures Fellows, a new funding initiative designed to provide support to and raise the visibility of disabled creatives across the full range of creative disciplines.

In its first efforts, DFF awarded a total of $1 million (or $50,000 each) to a diverse group of 20 Disability Futures Fellows working in a variety of creative fields, including writing, film, dance, journalism, architecture, performance, and design. Among the initial recipients of the DFF grants are such authors as Alice Wong, editor of Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-first Century, Riva Lehrer, author Golem Girl, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, author of Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice.

Other recipients of the DFF grants include filmmakers Jim LeBrecht and Rodney Evans, dancer Jerron Hermon, visual artist Christine Sun Kim and playwright/performer Ryan J. Haddad. A complete list of the 20 Disability Futures Fellows can be found on the Ford Foundation website.

“Institutional structures have not served disabled artists in the past,” said Emil Kang, program director for Arts and Culture at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “Disability Futures is the result of listening, collaboration, and humble engagement and we at Mellon are pleased to recognize and support these outstanding artists directly.”

According to the foundations, the DFF is the only national multidisciplinary award for disabled artists and creative practioners. The 20 disabled creatives receiving grants are located all across the country and represent multiple age-generations as well as BIPOC and Queer communities

Margaret Morton, director of creativity and free expression at the Ford Foundation, said, “Artists and creatives provoke us with ideas, adorn us with beauty, and lead us to action. It is critical that we engage with disabled practitioners’ perspectives and elevate their narratives. We hope that this fellowship will prompt more attention for and engagement with disability-led content, productions, and projects in the years to come.”