UNC Asheville Awarded $700,000 Mellon Foundation Grant for Public Humanities and Community Engagement

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Languages and Cultures in Action Day at UNC Asheville

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – UNC Asheville has been awarded a $700,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support an arts and educational alliance focused on public humanities and community engagement.

The four-year project titled, “UNC Asheville: Leading the Public Arts and Humanities in the City of Asheville,” has four primary goals:

  • To enrich the partnership with the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (BMCM+AC)
  • To further initiatives in Affrilachia, uncovering what has been the largely undocumented influence of African Americans on the culture and social fabric of Western North Carolina
  • To stimulate new partnerships with local community colleges and educational institutions in order to broaden awareness of and participation in the Humanities Program through the creation of new Humanities Readers and the establishment of an Affiliates and Fellows Program in Humanities
  • To create models for the public liberal arts and humanities through programing at the Center for Creative Entrepreneurship and UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio, and to foster and create partnerships with The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design

“Under the leadership of Chancellor Mary K. Grant, UNC Asheville has strengthened its ties with academic and cultural institutions in the surrounding community. This grant will help UNC Asheville further cultivate relationships with historic colleges and arts organizations in Western North Carolina, developing an alliance that promises to contribute significantly to the region in cultural, academic, and economic terms,” said Cristle Collins Judd, senior program officer at the Mellon Foundation.

“We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for this investment in UNC Asheville. This grant recognizes the mission of the university and the expertise and commitment of our faculty and staff. UNC Asheville is a leader in the liberal arts and humanities, and we have strong community partners and collaborators. We look forward to using this opportunity to strengthen these partnerships and to build upon our strong foundation,” said UNC Asheville Chancellor Mary K. Grant.

The work starts from UNC Asheville’s mission as North Carolina’s public liberal arts university. The Humanities Program, which celebrated 50 years in 2013, will benefit from funding to sustain its success for the future. Developed collaboratively by faculty across disciplines, the Humanities Program spans a student’s career from their first year to their last year, making the interdisciplinary courses the backbone of a UNC Asheville liberal arts education. 

Mellon Foundation funding will allow UNC Asheville faculty to expand the program’s reach by collaborating with A-B Tech faculty in creating shared curriculum, developing web-based core courses, and exploring new models of shared teaching and learning. Updates to the Humanities Readers will become an open resource available across the UNC system and will be published in three reader volumes by the UNC Press.

The Mellon grant also builds on a 2015 partnership with The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, providing funding for The BMCM+AC Performance Initiative, a multi-part project with public programs ranging from performances and workshops to residences and classroom visits at UNC Asheville. The performance initiative will offer new dimensions to the museum’s ambitious visual art exhibitions and deepen the connections between UNC Asheville and downtown Asheville.

In addition, the grant expands UNC Asheville’s development of the annual African Americans in Western North Carolina Conference and research initiatives on The State of Black Asheville and The State of Black North Carolina. Each provides a public-private forum for research in Affrilachia, or African Americans in Southern Appalachia. The conference will add a third day to the schedule with an aim to disseminate and offer digital access to the conference proceedings and research, as well as offer workshop sessions and curriculum development for public school teachers.

The grant project also aims to infuse meaningful STEAM Studio (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) experiences into the curriculum and community outreach programs, including developing reusable training models for each machine at the STEAM Studio, which can then be aggregated into a myriad of educational experiences. The grant funding deepens UNC Asheville’s existing partnership with The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design and the Center for Creative Entrepreneurship, while exploring future partnerships and conversations and establishing a national model for creative collaboration.

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UNC Asheville is the designated liberal arts institution for the UNC system and one of the nation’s top 10 public liberal arts universities. Enrolling 3,800 students and offering more than 30 undergraduate majors and a Master of Liberal Arts and Sciences degree, UNC Asheville encourages students to take part in a nationally acclaimed undergraduate research program and participate in interdisciplinary learning. From internships and hands-on projects, to study abroad and community engagement, students experience an education that extends beyond campus into the vibrant City of Asheville, the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and the world. Learn more at www.unca.edu.


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. Additional information is available at mellon.org.