Celebrating 30 Years, from One Artist to Many

Christa Blatchford
Sandy S. Lee

Joan Mitchell stands with folded arms and a cigarette above a sweeping view of the Seine River. She is a white woman in her 60s with dark hair in a bob.
Joan Mitchell at La Tour, Vétheuil, France, 1984. Photo by Édouard Boubat.

We are nearing the close of 2023—a year that marks the 30th anniversary of the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Since its incorporation in 1993, the Foundation has impacted thousands of creative visionaries through Mitchell’s directive to aid and assist other artists. Over these last few months of profound horror in the news, we at the Foundation have found ourselves returning again and again to how fortunate we are to be able to steward Mitchell’s wishes, with an understanding that creativity and generosity can provide solace during hard times.

Even within the landscape of artist-endowed foundations, we recognize how unique Joan Mitchell’s decisions were for her time. Mitchell's desire to directly support living artists is central to our approach: honor the legacy of one artist by providing resources to many others. Within that, we are grounded in an understanding of how important the work of artists is in offering diverse ways of seeing and thinking. As we consider the future of the artist-endowed foundation field, we’re heartened to observe how many living artists see so clearly how supporting other artists is a way of ensuring their own legacies.

As we reflect on 2023, the year’s milestones also represent the larger picture of our impact over the past three decades. This year started off with the conclusion of the Joan Mitchell retrospective—a project that was years in the making, encompassing three presentations on two continents. The retrospective has inspired and deepened people’s understanding of the strength and breadth of Mitchell’s oeuvre.

Two large abstract diptych paintings hang in a gallery, with a flat vitrine of photographs in the foreground.
Installation view of Joan Mitchell Retrospective at Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (October 5, 2022 - February 27, 2023). Image courtesy of Fondation Louis Vuitton.

Thanks to the curatorial teams—Sarah Roberts, Katy Siegel, Suzanne Pagé, Olivier Michelon, and Angeline Scherf—the retrospective and the concurrent Claude Monet – Joan Mitchell exhibition at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris drew in new audiences to appreciate Mitchell’s work. Additionally, the Saint Louis Art Museum’s presentation of its own iteration of Monet/Mitchell: Painting the French Landscape offered perspectives on the two artists' work to audiences on this side of the Atlantic.

Alongside the conclusion of these major exhibitions, the Foundation’s team has continued to steward Mitchell’s legacy by supporting scholars, curators, and students on new projects; managing copyright and reproduction requests; and activating our artwork collection for loans and study. For the ongoing Joan Mitchell Catalogue Raisonné project, 2023 was marked by fruitful research and deep reflection on how technology can expand the possibilities of what catalogues raisonnés can offer. We look forward to sharing specific plans for this project as they unfold.

Soraya, with medium dark skin wearing a fuschia dress over a short sleeved patterned tshirt with a royal blue baseball hat, points to a detail of a multicolor abstract work with several guests looking on.
Soraya Jean-Louis speaks to visitors in her studio at the Joan Mitchell Center. Photo by Cfreedom Photography.

On the artist programs side of our work, 2023 has been a year of close engagement with the artists intersecting with our programs. This year, the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans hosted 15 national and local artists for residencies, while also reserving time for staff to engage in important planning conversations regarding campus and programmatic accessibility, to better support applicants and participants. The Center also continued its tradition of inviting members of the local community to meet the artists in their studios through Community Coffee and Open Studios events. You can explore the work of all of the artists who participated in residencies this year here.

In June, we welcomed two cohorts of Joan Mitchell Fellows for a three-day convening in New York. The Fellows Convening centered collective learning, space for informal conversations, and opportunities to connect with the city and extraordinary professionals from across the country. We compiled reflections on the 2023 Joan Mitchell Fellows Convening in the below video.

Also over the summer, we announced our third cohort of Joan Mitchell Fellows. These 15 artists will receive unrestricted, multi-year financial support, as well as supplemental career development support, as they enter a community of practice in formation. Among other things, the Fellows are invited to join quarterly monthly gatherings centered on topics sourced from the group. It is thrilling to see this program being enriched and continually shaped in partnership with the participating artists.

As with every year, 2023 ushered in transitions within our team. We bid farewell to Shervone Neckles-Ortiz and Tadia Lynch, and welcomed new team members: Abigael MacGibeny, Trécha Gay Jheneall, Sarah Dhobhany, Daonne Huff, and Patrick Conway. In addition, New Orleans artist and educator Cheryl Hayes joined our Board of Directors.

New team members: Top, left to right: Abigael MacGibeny, Trécha Gay Jheneall, Sarah Dhobhany; Bottom, left to right: Daonne Huff, Patrick Conway, Cheryl Hayes.

For 2024, we look forward to formalizing plans to celebrate Mitchell’s Centennial in 2025, while continuing to engage with our artist community through the Fellowship and Residency programs. Additionally, we expect to be in deep conversation with peers about how we as a field can collectively elevate artists’ legacies as a key concern for the arts ecosystem.

We wish you happy holidays and a peaceful new year. As always, we welcome our community members to reach out with questions or updates.

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