Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Continues Generous Support for Collaborations Between Cantor Arts Center and Stanford Art Students

Stanford, Calif.—The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Stanford University a four-year, $745,000 grant designed to strengthen collaboration between the Cantor Arts Center and the Department of Art & Art History. The grant will provide extraordinary opportunities for art history graduate students to learn from works of art in the Cantor’s extensive collection.


The grant builds on the success of a previous grant awarded by the Mellon Foundation in 2013 that initiated a new partnership between the Cantor and the Department of Art & Art History. This three-year, $500,000 grant, which is now ending, supported new courses, graduate student–curated exhibitions and a series of publications. The new grant, given in March, will cover four additional years of support, affording graduate students the opportunity to conduct original object-centered research, curate exhibitions based on their scholarship and invest in writing about art through a series of publications.


“We are enormously grateful to have this ability to provide Stanford’s graduate students in art history the chance to develop essential curatorial and writing skills while furthering the scholarship about work in the collection,” said Connie Wolf, John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the Cantor Arts Center. “The Mellon Foundation’s support is a reflection of the important partnership that has been created between the museum and the Department of Art & Art History—and the dedication of the museum’s curatorial and exhibitions staff who are invested in working with graduate students to give them these important experiences.”

Professor Alexander Nemerov, Chair of the Department of Art & Art History and the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities, commented, “At Stanford, we regard the ability to focus on the object—to take care of it, attending to its display, its historical impact, its present-day resonance—as not just a ‘method’ of art history, but as the fundamental skill and sensibility underlying all serious art history. With this grant, we are creating a new focus on what it means to write about art: how to do it, why to do it, what is at stake in causing the reader to see. We want to provide our students with these experiences with objects, to see, and to write about what they see—so that their audiences can, too. Mellon support is essential in our efforts to keep striving toward this goal.”

The grant will also help realize the Department of Art & Art History’s intensified commitment to writing and an expanded focus on curatorial opportunities. Over the next four years, eight graduate students will be selected to serve as curatorial research assistants, or “CRAs.” The CRAs will curate an exhibition at the Cantor that is based on their research interests and that will feature work from the museum’s permanent collection.

The CRAs will be selected through a competitive and rigorous review process. They will each be supported by a professor and a museum curator, and will be in residence at the Cantor and supported for two consecutive quarters. These students will present exhibitions, based on Cantor collection works, in one of the museum’s main galleries.

With an annual attendance of more than 260,000 visitors, the Cantor provides a lively venue for showcasing the students’ projects. Plus, the CRA program will provide rigorous training and professional experience that will distinguish Stanford art history graduate students in their future pursuits. If CRAs decide to pursue careers as museum curators, having this experience positions them as more proficient and attractive candidates in a highly competitive field. And if CRAs remain in the academic environment and seek faculty appointments, the CRA experience will strengthen their research and teaching capacities and make them more competitive candidates.

The other main feature of the new Mellon grant is the development of a series of publications that will expand and strengthen the department’s and the museum’s commitment to art historical writing. Each CRA exhibition will be accompanied by a scholarly, fully illustrated publication written by the CRAs. The new Mellon grant also allows for four additional publications, each of which will have multiple authors and be connected to graduate art history seminars.

About the Cantor Arts Center
The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University is a vital and dynamic institution with a venerable history. Founded with the university in 1891, the historic museum was expanded and renamed for lead donors Iris and B. Gerald Cantor in 1999. The Cantor’s encyclopedic collection spans 5,000 years, includes more than 45,000 artworks, and beckons visitors to travel across the globe and through time—from Africa to the Americas to Asia, from classical antiquity to the present day. With 24 galleries presenting selections from the collection and more than 20 special exhibitions each year, the Cantor supports Stanford’s academic community and draws art lovers and campus visitors from the San Francisco Bay Area and around the world. Free admission, tours, lectures, family activities, and thought-provoking exhibitions make the Cantor one of the most well-attended university art museums in the country and a great resource for teaching and research on campus.

Visitor information
The Cantor Arts Center is open six days a week, Wednesday–Monday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Thursday until 8 p.m.; closed Tuesday. Admission is free. The Cantor is located on the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at Museum Way. Parking is free after 4 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends and major holidays. Information: 650-723-4177,

About the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University
The Department of Art & Art History, currently comprising 22 core faculty (as well as numerous adjunct faculty and post-doctoral fellows), is an interdisciplinary department offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in art history, art practice, film studies, documentary filmmaking and design. Department courses offer special opportunities for students to gain enhanced understanding of the meaning and purpose of the arts, their historical development, their role in society and their relationship to other disciplines in the humanities, sciences and social sciences, including literature, religion, music, history, anthropology, biology and computer science. Work in the classroom, the museum and the studio is intended to intensify visual perception of the formal and expressive means of art, to encourage insight into a variety of technical processes and to deepen engagement with, as well as interpretation of, works of art, architecture, film, design and visual culture.

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Notes to Editors
For more information, contact Angela Drury, Director of Communications and Marketing, Cantor Arts Center, 650-723-7629,