SAMORA PINDERHUGHES (photo credit Ray Neutron)


February 10, 2023—Pianist-vocalist-composer and interdisciplinary artist Samora Pinderhughes has been awarded a one million dollar grant from the Mellon Foundation in support of The Healing Project (THP), a years-long exploration of incarceration, structural violence and healing in the United States using music, visual arts, film, and language as abolitionist action. 

Distributed over 38 months, the funding will go towards the expansion of art works in The Healing Project exhibition, the creation of a book version of The Healing Project, the continuation of THP’s exhibitions and free community programs, and the creation of additional albums & films. The grant also provides the initial funding for The Healing Project Transformative Impact Fund, which provides seed money and mentorship for selected interviewees who are currently or formerly incarcerated to work on their own special projects over the course of the grant, aiming to make their own dreams & goals come true. 

Pinderhughes’ work encompasses over 10 years of recorded conversations with more than 100 people of color across 15 states about their experiences, stories and ideas surrounding healing from structural violence. By highlighting the specific stories of people such as Keith LaMar, Pitt Panther, and others who have urgent cases regarding their imprisonment, The Healing Project aims to shine light on their stories, show their brilliance, and ultimately help free them.

In 2022 Pinderhughes released three integral elements of The Healing Project including his exhibition debut at The Yerba Buena Center for The Arts. The exhibit featured a constellation of creative works including films, sound works, physical pieces and contributed artworks from established artists like Titus Kaphar and currently incarcerated artists including Pitt Panther. The heart of the exhibition was the Surround Room, where the audio interviews that Pinderhughes conducted for The Healing Project were scored to original music presented in surround sound. The exhibition also included workshops and events, all free and open to the public, and free performances featuring Pinderhughes and special guests. 

The critically acclaimed album GRIEF marked Pinderhughes’ debut as a vocalist and was written in the spirit of music from the ’60s and ’70s by artists like Nina Simone and Curtis Mayfield who made powerful statements about life and social justice through their music. The album was included in several “Best of 2022” lists including The New York Times and NPR. 

Finally, the digital archive of the installation was also unveiled in 2022 as an open-source, mobile-friendly site built on AR/VR technology where people can listen directly to the recordings of The Healing Project interviewees scored to music. Pinderhughes created the digital archive alongside collaborators including Rafiq Bhatia, Chris Pattishall, Jack DeBoe and Adam O’Farrill, which features a brand-new visual world created by CRUX that site visitors can digitally walk through.

“We celebrate and support artists like Samora whose work transcends the confines of performing arts practice – experimenting with how their work is created, delivered, presented, and received” said Emil J. Kang, Mellon Foundation Program Director for Arts and Culture. “At Mellon, we aim to cultivate conditions that empower artists to center contemporary performance as a primary vehicle for their creativity.”

Pinderhughes states: “With this funding, and this next iteration of The Healing Project, we aim to provide a blueprint for how music projects can expand, not just artistically, but in the ways that they materially change lives and policies. The heart of the work is in our belief in the freedom dreams of those who are currently and formerly incarcerated and our understanding that the deepest healing strategies come directly from those who have been traumatized and oppressed, and they never get the chance to make policy or build institutions. We aim to change that.”

Samora Pinderhughes is a composer, pianist, vocalist, filmmaker, and multidisciplinary artist known for striking intimacy and carefully crafted, radically honest lyrics alongside high-level musicianship. He is also known for using his music to examine sociopolitical issues and fight for change. Born & raised in the Bay Area, Pinderhughes has collaborated with many artists across boundaries and scenes including Herbie Hancock, Common, Glenn Ligon, Sara Bareilles, Daveed Diggs, Titus Kaphar, and Lalah Hathaway. He works frequently with Common on compositions for music and film, and has been mentored by Anna Deavere Smith and Vijay Iyer. He also scored the award-winning documentaries Whose Streets? and Going to Mars.
Pinderhughes has been commissioned by Carnegie Hall, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Kennedy Center; created albums including GRIEF & Transformations Suite; and had his debut solo exhibition at The Kitchen in 2022-2023. As an artist, Pinderhughes’ goal is that people will LIVE DIFFERENTLY after experiencing what he makes—that it will affect how they think, how they act, how they relate to others, how they consider their daily relationships to their country and their world.
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