VAF members and the Board were all thrilled to learn that we received a generous grant of $750,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, awarded in June to VAF and our partner the University of Virginia. The grant will support three field schools aimed at research on African American communities and landscapes and emphasizing community engagement. Each field school will run for two seasons, their starts staggered over three years. We are thankful for Louis Nelson’s work in achieving this and agreeing to provide oversight and for assistance from the University going forward.
Our first task was to establish the committee that would work out the details of the field school formats and the application process for potential directors and school programs. Our initial committee includes Claire Dempsey, as VAF president, and Louis Nelson, for UVa, as co-chairs, as well as Jim Buckley, (president elect), Niya Bates, Kim Hoagland, and Carl Lounsbury. We plan to expand the committee with one or two more members in the weeks ahead.
Early on, we realized that a critical decision we needed to review was whether we could meet the schedule contemplated by the grant application in light of the covid-19 pandemic. We elected to push the process back and Mellon agreed. The whole operation will be moved back one year, and we are working to have the application process in place in mid-2021 for the first field school to take place in the summers of 2022 and 2023. Two more field schools are scheduled to begin in 2023 and 2024.
Finally, and most importantly, we are working to bring this opportunity to the attention of a broad and diverse community of scholars, practitioners, and potential students. We hope VAF members will contact Claire or other members of the committee if they are interested in directing or in participating in a field school and have skills and experience to offer this important endeavor.