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Mellon Archives Innovation Program

On August 31, 2022, we proudly launched the Mellon Archives Innovation Program—a multifaceted initiative supporting the creation of new research, scholarship, and artistic production through engagement with Rebuild Foundation’s archival collections held at the Stony Island Arts Bank.


As part of a partnership with the Mellon Foundation, a $3.5M grant will, over the course of two years, be put towards developing infrastructure for the archives and funding fellows’ projects. The four inaugural fellows are singer, songwriter, and musician Corrine Bailey Rae, interdisciplinary performing artist Yaw Agyeman; professor and performance studies scholar Dr. Honey Crawford; and composer and cornetist Ben LaMar Gay.


Central to the Mellon Archives Innovation Program is its aim to interrogate, disrupt, and expand the knowledge of histories connected to the African diaspora. The program will allow the artists, musicians, and researchers to explore the archives and produce new work that can be presented publicly.


Our four collections housed at the Stony Island Arts Bank each evoke different approaches to objecthood and cultural histories in Black space. They include a collection of more than 60,000 glass lantern slides; a collection of books and periodicals donated by the Johnson Publishing Company, publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines; the personal vinyl collection of Frankie Knuckles, the godfather of house music; and the Edward J. Williams Collection, a collection of approximately 4,000 artifacts representing historical documentation of and reflections on the Black experience in America.


The Mellon Archives Innovation Program will further amplify our mission to demonstrate the impact of innovative and ambitious cultural initiatives in the Greater Grand Crossing Neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago by advancing world-class discourse and artistic production through collaboration, amplification, and critique.

Inaugural Mellon Archives Innovation Fellows

Throughout the duration of the fellowship, additional programming will present opportunities for the public to engage with the ongoing research and exploration taking place in the archives. A research cluster will be established, with select artists, curators, scholars, and other thought leaders convening monthly for discussion. Collection tours and a speaker series every two weeks will feature fellows and researchers showcasing and discussing select objects from the collections at the Stony Island Arts Bank. The program will include the production of a publication that highlights elements of the collections, illuminating their historical context through editorial and interpretive elements compiled in collaboration with artists, researchers, and fellows.


Throughout 2022 to 2023, Rebuild Foundation presented the first in a series of public programs that allowed audiences to intimately discover objects from the collections and explore their histories, context, and impact on culture more broadly.

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