Yolanda Lopez
Yolanda López trying on a chain necklace at her home in the Mission District. Photo by Clara-Sophia Daly.

Artist Yolanda López, 79, has been awarded a $50,000 fellowship from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation as part of its new Latinx Artist Fellowship. 

“The first thing I thought about is that I would have some funds to do my archiving!” exclaimed López over the phone the day she received the fellowship. At the time, she hadn’t fully read through the email, but was grateful to have been awarded the fellowship.

López is a San Francisco based artist who is known for her depictions of the Virgen de Guadalupe, in which she reimagined the Virgen as an older woman, a feminist icon, and as her own self-portrait.

López said that, a few months back, the organization called her and spoke to her, asked for a bio and a picture, and told her they would let her know if she would be chosen among the 200 Latinx artists nominated. 

She said she likes the fellowship because it wasn’t competitive. “That’s the great joy, that I didn’t have to compete with anyone else. They accepted me on my own terms.” 

Adriana Zavala, professor of art history and director of the US Latinx Art Forum, the administrative nonprofit that has partnered with the Mellon and Ford Foundation, said she was thrilled when she saw the list of artists in the inaugural cohort. 

Zavala says the fellowship is about “lifting up artists who have made an incredible contribution to the history of art.” 

López agreed. 

“This is extremely important especially since my generation is beginning to die,” said López, who plans to use the money to organize her life’s work into an archive which can serve as a tool for educating the public.  

One of the goals of the fellowship is to increase visibility around Latinx artists beyond the word of Chicano or Latinx art, and into the public eye.

“The issues that she’s worked on are cross cutting … they’re about the women’s experience, they’re about cultural marginalization, they’re about breaking free of strangleholds.” 

Zavala says she was happy to learn that the nomination committee, which consists of seven curators with expertise in Latinx art, chose López. 

The fellowship provides $50,000 in funding to 15 Latinx artists per year over the next five years, according to the US Latinx Art Forum. 

A lot of people know nothing about the Chicanx movement, said López. 

“What I am interested in, is having [the archive of art] be useful and intellectually provocative,” she added. “Because I have found that I still have that power.” 

To learn more about the fellowship and the other artists who were awarded money this year, click here.

Check out this other story we wrote recently about a mural dedicated to López! And follow us Instagram to stay up to date on what’s going on in the Mission. @missionlocal

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Clara-Sophia Daly is a multimedia storyteller and reporter who has worked both in print and audio. A graduate of Skidmore College where she studied International Affairs and Media/Film studies, she enjoys working at the intersection of art and politics, and focusing on the stories of individuals to reveal larger themes.

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  1. Reading this again after hearing of her passing. I hope that her work can somehow still be archived as she wished.

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  2. Wow: this is fantastic! An endowment almost on the exact same point of the timeline as artist Jessica Sabogal’s monumental murals of honor and respect; and gifted on *her* terms! Sincere congratulations and massive best wishes for the success of your intended project, Señora López!

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