1993-2003: Formation & Start Up Phase
In accordance with Mitchell’s will, the Joan Mitchell Foundation was incorporated in New York City in 1993 by Mitchell’s attorney and executor of her estate, John Somers. Over the next ten years, Mitchell’s estate was in a protracted settlement process. As with many artist-endowed foundations, the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s operating model uses funds from strategic sales of artworks in the Foundation’s collection to grow an investment portfolio and support mission-driven work.
While Mitchell’s estate was being settled, the Foundation began its work with modest resources. Carolyn Somers, the daughter of John Somers, led the Foundation in establishing its charitable purpose and through a subsequent decade of programmatic growth. This period was centered on start up and programmatic goals, as the board and staff considered what meaningful support for artists should be, as an extension of Mitchell’s life and legacy. In these early years, defining new programs also laid the groundwork for the Foundation’s core values: a commitment to equity, being artist-centered, and embodying a spirit of generosity.