$2 million Mellon Foundation grant will expand arts outreach and integration

$2 million Mellon Foundation grant will expand arts outreach and integration

The Ohio State University received a $2 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to support community engagement through the arts. The grant’s intended long-term outcomes include strengthening Ohio State’s partnerships with community arts and cultural organizations in Columbus, bolstering a cross-sector career support system for arts students and visual and performing artists in central Ohio, and increasing opportunities for engagement with the arts at all five of Ohio State’s campuses.

"In line with Ohio State's land-grant mission to increase access to educational opportunities throughout the state, this grant from the Mellon Foundation will aid Ohio State in creating a thriving arts ecosystem across and beyond our campuses," said Lisa Florman, vice provost for the arts. "By aligning our resources with those that already exist in Columbus and strategically enhancing opportunities in communities served by our regional campuses, we aim to expand engagement in transformative art experiences for all."

This award marks a relatively unusual instance in which two separate programs at the Foundation — Arts and Culture and Higher Learning — have collaborated to jointly fund a proposal. By enhancing education with arts-related experiential learning throughout central Ohio, the university aims to address both programs’ goals.

Arts integration at Ohio State will benefit all 

In partnership with the Mellon Foundation, Ohio State will launch bold, far-reaching initiatives involving multiple university units and programs, including the College of Arts and Sciences, Urban Arts Space, the Lawrence and Isabel Barnett Center for Integrated Arts and Enterprise, Imagined Futures Graduate Professional Development Initiative, Wexner Center for the Arts, and regional campuses in Lima, Mansfield, Marion and Newark. These broad initiatives will significantly expand opportunities for students, faculty, staff and community members throughout the state to learn and grow through exposure to a broad range of perspectives and art experiences.

Colorful paintings on the walls of Urban Arts Space.
Established in 2008, Urban Arts Space facilitates experimental galleries that adapt to the dynamic needs of Ohio State's arts curriculum and communities served.

To forge lasting, impactful connections between students, the university and local nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, undergraduate and graduate students will participate in experiential learning within those organizations, helping build each nonprofit’s critical capacity while launching students on a values-driven professional trajectory. By partnering with arts organizations to offer paid experiential learning opportunities, Ohio State will equip students with essential skills and potentially transformative experiences while supporting and sustaining the arts infrastructure in Columbus.

The second initiative will broaden the scope of art across Ohio State by focusing on the university’s four regional campuses and their existing artistic resources. New “Spark” grants will provide seed funding, enabling arts-driven innovation to flourish across the state, including in the rural areas served by the regional campuses. An annual “Spark” competition will be open to all staff and faculty; three or four community-engaged projects will be funded yearly.

Finally, grant funding will support careful evaluation of the success of these programs and make those assessments available to other universities wishing to undertake similar initiatives.

Paintings on the walls of the Kuhn Final Arts Gallery.
The Wayne and Geraldine Kuhn Fine Arts Gallery serves the The Ohio State University at Marion students, faculty, staff and the Marion community.

Ohio State: A foundation for transformative engagement in the arts

In recent years, Ohio State has made significant investments in facilities and talent to provide the foundation for arts integration. Visual and performing arts departments are now co-located around the revitalized entryway to the Columbus campus as part of the Arts District, setting the stage for novel curricular and programmatic collaborations and meaningful public engagement.

Positioned near 15th Avenue and High Street, the Arts District is expanding opportunities in the performing arts through the newly opened Timashev Family Music Building and Theatre, Film, and Media Arts Building, both adjacent to the Wex, the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, and the Barnett Center. This co-location of arts units has generated unprecedented collaboration around course offerings and community engagement.

Additionally, the creation of the university’s Artist Laureate program, the Urban Art Space’s community artist-in-residence initiative, and the manager of campus art position have enhanced Ohio State’s strong commitment to Columbus and the surrounding communities and to prioritizing community engagement through the arts. 

Through this vision, Ohio State has created an arts ecosystem that encourages experimentation and boundary crossing and where creative activity reflects the university’s Shared Values, histories and human experiences, challenging all to imagine and co-create.

"With this grant, Ohio State is further strengthening its dedication to promoting lifelong creativity, pushing us to broaden our comprehension of arts and culture, and helping us all reconsider how art can respond to the urgent challenges that our world is facing today," Florman stated. "Our deepest thanks to the Mellon Foundation for their generous support."