JCAL Receives Two-Year, $600,000 “Capacity Building” Grant from the Mellon Foundation

  • January 12, 2023

JCAL has been named the recipient of a two-year, $600,000 capacity-building grant from the Mellon Foundation. The grant, which will sustain and increase programming at the Southeast Queens cultural institution through restored staff positions and intensifying JCAL’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, was announced in December, coming at the end of JCAL’s 50th anniversary year. 

Through the grant, JCAL will embark on a series of interrelated projects. For example, through select new hires and short-term contractors, the organization will broaden its fundraising ability, setting it on a path toward fiscal sustainability. Simultaneously, JCAL will transform its pilot program, Building Equity for BIIPOC (Black, Immigrant, Indigenous, People of Color) Artists, into the unifying frame and philosophy that will guide and inform its programmatic choices.  

Since the ascent of new leadership at JCAL in 2022, JCAL has revitalized support from foundations that support arts and culture, particularly in communities of color. Staff hires will facilitate more corporate giving and sponsorships; foster robust individual giving through its new membership program; and drive an inclusion-focused expansion of its Board of Directors. 

“The Mellon Foundation recognizes that JCAL is at a pivotal moment in its organizational life,” said JCAL Executive Director Leonard Jacobs. “This grant—the largest from a foundation in our 50-year history—enables a future-focused vision of arts and culture in service to our community. What a remarkable and inspiring investment in our community, and in the people of Queens!” 

Artistic Director Courtney French added, “The incredible grant validates our Building Equity for BIIPOC Artists program, which we began to implement in 2020—exactly as COVID began. Our values are not to speak the words of diversity, equity and inclusion, but to practice and illustrate their meaning in every program we run, from arts education to the visual and performing arts.” 

Major support for needed roles, such as a new Director of Program Operations and a full-time Visual Arts Program Associate, are included in the scope of the Mellon Foundation’s grant. Acknowledging the immense multilingual population of Southeast Queens, JCAL will contract translators in four languages for all its marketing and communication materials, and will update both signage and wayfinding at its Jamaica Arts Center headquarters and Jamaica Performing Arts Center. A two-year marketing campaign will be launched as well. 

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation 

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at mellon.org. 

About JCAL 

Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL), founded in 1972, is a multidisciplinary arts center based in the diverse community of Southeast Queens. Our mission is devoted to offering quality visual, performing, and literary arts, and to providing accessible education programs to encourage participation in the arts. JCAL is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm; closed Sundays and major holidays. For additional information, call JCAL at 718-658-7400 or visit JCAL.org.