March 2, 2016
University of Washington Receives $750,000 Mellon Grant for Creative Research

A three and a half year, $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has been awarded to the University of Washington to pilot a new Creative Fellowships Initiative that will explore the nature of creative research at a top public research university. The interdisciplinary Initiative will advance the field of performing arts by supporting artists in the development of new work and by integrating the performing arts disciplines into the broader curriculum. This is the first time the University’s performing arts units, the Schools of Music and Drama, DXArts, UW World Series and the Dance Program have joined together for an experiment of this scale.

 “The Creative Fellowships Initiative builds on the University of Washington’s belief in innovation and the power of the arts to make positive change in the world,” said Gerald J. Baldasty, UW interim provost and executive vice president. “The program so clearly supports UW President Ana Mari Cauce’s mission to prepare the next generation of leaders through interdisciplinary learning that generates new knowledge and ideas.”

The Initiative will support exploration by guest artists in the fields of dance, theater and music through one- to three-year residencies, commissions, collaborations and performances. Guest artist Fellows will be recruited from individual artists and ensembles from around the world that are at the leading edge of contemporary performing arts and have significant experience in creative development and education. An emphasis will be placed on residencies that cross artistic disciplines as well.

Residencies will take different forms, facilitating both creative research and learning: closed incubation primarily for the guest artist/Fellows, open incubation in full view of students, creative work involving students, either as part of the Fellow’s work or as pedagogy, teaching residencies, or commissions and public premieres. The initiative will encourage creative inquiry between the fellows and counterparts among scholars and researchers in other fields and disciplines, both within the university and the local community. The Dance Program, DXArts and Schools of Music and Drama will partner with UW World Series, while also furthering their own laboratory work, including that of some faculty artists, through the residencies.

“In the STEM world we inhabit, research and innovation are seen as the domain of the sciences and technology, even as the values of art—creativity, collaboration and imaginative engagement with the unknown—are prized,” states Todd London, UW School of Drama executive director/professor. “This culture is both our challenge and opportunity, and we see these research-directed creative residencies as a way forward, both to serve our fields and to champion the values of art in the culture at large.”

Because this project investigates arts research in a public context, visiting artists will engage with local area artists and other community partners. Through this exploration, UW World Series will develop the concept of what an arts presenter can be, particularly the leadership it can exercise to catalyze ongoing experimentation in research and education as well as in expanding audiences for new creative work. 

As a leader among national and international performing arts presenters and educators, the University of Washington is well positioned to influence other institutions to engage in projects, opportunities and practices based on this pilot.

 “We are deeply honored by Mellon’s partnership in providing opportunities for artists, faculty and students to engage in rigorous creative research,” said UW World Series executive and artistic director Michelle Witt.  “This important work will connect the arts, sciences and humanities in a shared process of discovery to advance the performing arts in our society.”

Recruitment of Fellows is in process, with the first of the guest artists starting their fellowships in fall 2016.


Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.

See Related:
Back to List
Back to Top