The Foundation History
The Joan Mitchell Foundation celebrates the life of abstract artist Joan Mitchell by expanding awareness of her pioneering work and fulfilling her wish to support and provide opportunities for visual artists. Through grants, residencies, and related initiatives, the Foundation advances the work of today’s artists and amplifies their essential contributions to communities around the world.
The Joan Mitchell Foundation is both a model for how resources can be offered to artists, and an advocate for the value of artists. The impact the Foundation seeks to have is to help to create a world in which the following conditions exist:
• Artists are valued and thriving
• The visual artists who are recognized in contemporary culture reflect and represent the diverse world in which we live
• A comprehensible and comprehensive set of systems provide resources for artists’ lives and careers
The Joan Mitchell Foundation is:
• Diverse in demographics and perspectives
History & Overview
Established in 1993, the Joan Mitchell Foundation is an artist-endowed non-profit organization. Sustaining Joan Mitchell's artistic legacy and fulfilling her vision to support and amplify the work of other artists are the cornerstones of the Foundation’s work.
Joan Mitchell (1925–1992) was an American artist whose career spanned more than four decades in the US and France. Most known for her large, abstract oils on canvas, Mitchell also created smaller paintings, as well as an extensive body of works on paper and prints. Born in Chicago and educated at the Art Institute of Chicago, Mitchell moved to New York in 1949. In 1955, she began splitting her time between Paris and New York, before moving permanently to France in 1959. In 1968, Mitchell moved from Paris to Vétheuil, a small village northwest of the city, while continuing to exhibit her work in Paris, New York, and elsewhere around the world. It was in Vétheuil that Mitchell began regularly hosting artists at various stages of their careers, providing space and support to develop their art. When Mitchell passed away in 1992, her will specified that a portion of her estate should be used to establish a foundation to directly support visual artists.
As the chief steward of Joan Mitchell’s legacy, the Foundation manages a collection of Mitchell’s artwork and archives containing her personal papers, photographs, and ephemera. The Foundation provides loans of Joan Mitchell artworks from its collection to museums, academic institutions and other non-profit arts spaces. Foundation staff are dedicated to assisting researchers on-site and remotely, and to sharing information about the Foundation’s artwork and archival collections in order to further scholarship and broad appreciation for Mitchell’s life and work. The Joan Mitchell Catalogue Raisonné, established in 2015 and supported by the Joan Mitchell Foundation, is currently researching Joan Mitchell’s paintings in order to produce a scholarly, multi-volume book documenting all of the artist’s known painted work.
Fulfilling Mitchell’s mandate to “aid and assist” living artists, over the past 25 years the Foundation has evolved a range of initiatives that directly support visual artists at varying stages of their careers. The Foundation’s grant programs include the annual Painters & Sculptors Grants, which provide 25 artists with unrestricted funds of $25,000, and Emergency Grants of up to $6,000 for disaster recovery. The New Orleans-based Joan Mitchell Center hosts residencies for national and local artists, as well as artist talks, open studio events, and other public programs that encourage dialogue and exchange with the local community. The Creating a Living Legacy (CALL) initiative provides free and essential resources to help artists of all ages organize, document, and manage their artworks and careers. Together, these programs, along with additional professional support services, actively engage with working artists as they develop and expand their practices.
From 1997–2016, the Foundation’s Art Education Program provided free opportunities for both emerging youth and young adult artists through inclusive and diverse arts education programming, while supporting the artistic development of working painters and sculptors through teaching opportunities and professional development training. While the Foundation is not currently offering studio or portfolio development classes, we are undertaking fieldwork to develop a series of Early Practitioners Initiatives, with opportunities and resources specifically tailored for young artists.
From 2005–2017, the Foundation provided direct funding to over one hundred arts organizations supporting visual artists in their respective communities around the country. Although our funding priorities shifted in 2015 to focus on direct support to individuals, we continue to collaborate with a number of community partners to support artists through professional development and other enriching opportunities.
Joan Mitchell Foundation