VAF African American Field Schools Program
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant to VAF and UVa

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has generously awarded funding to the Vernacular Architecture Forum and the University of Virginia to sponsor and support summer field schools that will focus on African American places and engage African American communities, scholars, and students. While African Americans make up almost thirteen percent of the population and African American history in this country spans over 400 years, buildings, sites, and landscapes associated with Black life are often overlooked and seriously under-recorded. In partnership with African American communities and local and state preservation organizations, these field schools will investigate African American cultural landscapes and historic sites in the United States through multi-year projects led by teams of specialists in architectural field work, African American history, and community engagement. VAF’s goals in this effort are to elevate projects that center African American cultural landscapes and historic sites and to catalyze a new and more diverse wave of scholars and practitioners prepared to do this work

This initiative will support field schools at three different locations, with each school starting in 2022, 2023, or 2024. Each field school will operate summer sessions of three or four weeks over two years. The field school location should be a site of African American history and culture, and the leadership team should include a range of scholarly expertise, covering historic building and cultural landscape documentation and African American history and culture. A diverse student body should be recruited both locally and nationwide to be trained in advanced field recording and assessment techniques. Field schools will be expected to build and sustain a relationship of mutual respect and reciprocity with their local community and host public sessions to return their findings to the community. Each program will also be responsible for printed and/or digital deliverables, an investment for the local community as well as for students and scholars. Applications can be made through the process described below.

An Advisory Committee of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, co-led by the VAF President and Louis Nelson of the University of Virginia, the Principal Investigator of the grant, is responsible for oversight of the pedagogical content of the field schools. The committee will also assist in the selection and mentoring of the field school directors, the recruitment of students, and the dissemination of information about the field schools.

Potential applicants should contact Principle Investigator Louis Nelson at to discuss their proposal before applying. Answers to questions raised by applicants will be posted in the FAQ section of this website. For more information follow the links below:

What the grant will provide

Who should apply

What each field school should achieve

Application process

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