New Orleans, LA
Grant Cycle:
Type of Grant:
Interdisiplinary, Social Practice

Founded in 2019, Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought (Rivers) is a non-profit institute for research and publishing, exhibitions and convenings on art of the global diaspora. Based in a city whose history and future are predicated upon and consigned to migration, we recognize art as a form of diaspora, shaped by the geographic, social, political, and economic currents that will define the 21st century. Rivers sees diasporic knowledge as driving the imaginations of the most rigorous contemporary artists today—with practices sensitive to history and what it yet might reveal about our global future.

Positioned at the Mississippi River’s Delta, at the southern tip of the American South and the upper limit of the Global South, New Orleans offers contemporary artists a remarkable vantage point from which to explore local and global histories, informed by both long-rootedness and displacement. Our work brings us into dialogue with others who disperse for many reasons—social upheaval and oppression, political persecution, climate change, war, and real and imagined opportunities. The Board and staff of Rivers believe we must come together in as great a force and, therefore, have organized an alternative model for art and cultural production dependent on long-form collaboration with committed partners. Rivers nourishes our foundational partnership with The Amistad Research Center, an archive of global liberation based in New Orleans. With the generous support of the Mellon Foundation, Rivers and the Amistad Research Center established in 2021 the Amistad-Rivers Artist Research Residency—New Orleans’ first residency for artists who wish to examine America’s complex ethnic and racial history through the intersection of the archive and contemporary art practice. In our first cycle, we welcomed artists Helen Cammock, Troy Montes Michie, Alia Farid, Yto Barrada, and Leyla McCalla; next year we welcome artists Iris Touliatou, Jacqueline Imani Brown, Lotus Laurie Kang, and Allison Janae Hamilton. Through our program, these artists gain the support of a dedicated archivist, Amistad’s team of research libraries and Rivers’ curatorial staff to support the patient development of new work, publications, and exhibitions, which draw from material history to study and give form to the contemporary moment.

Invested in the migration and movement of ideas and practices, Rivers has also developed a network of long-form presenting partners, including the California African American Museum (Los Angeles), MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA), the Contemporary Art Museum (Houston), and the Center for Art Research and Alliance (New York). Working together, we see the work circulate across media and geographies, new communities constructed, and alternate pathways imagined. Collective labor between small and medium-sized non-profits affords more ambitious projects, depth of expertise, and sustains risk-taking organizations in communities across the country. Currently, Rivers’ exhibitions are on view from coast to coast, including Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul at Art + Practice in LA through our partnership with CAAM and Yto Barrada: Ways to Baffle the Wind at MASS MoCA. Our projects also circulate through our commitment to artists’ books. In 2021 we published Troy Montes Michie: Rock of Eye (in coordination with his eponymous exhibition, organized by Rivers and presented at CAAM and CAM-Houston) and in 2023, we released Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul.

Through our commitment to collective practice and our partnership with museums, publishers, and nonprofits across the globe, Rivers offers artists generous time, a critical context, and the patient resources to determine their own paths, processes and purposes that begin in New Orleans and travel widely. We work to continue to deepen our artist support and our partner community in order to meet the complex needs of research-driven artists from across the globe.