Mariët Westermann oversees the Foundation's grantmaking and research programs. In her role she has created initiatives that promote the value of the arts and humanities as public goods; strengthen partnerships between community colleges and research universities; promote graduate education reform; renew cultural heritage preservation around the world; and support scholars and artists at risk. In 2016 she launched the Mellon Research Forum, a network of researchers who study the value of a liberal arts education to students and society, and ways of distributing it more widely and fairly.
Before joining the Mellon Foundation in 2010 Westermann was the first provost of New York University Abu Dhabi, charged with developing the campus and overseeing the curriculum design and faculty recruitment. At NYU, she had previously served as director and Paulette Goddard Professor at the Institute of Fine Arts. Earlier in her career she was associate director of research at the Clark Art Institute and assistant and associate professor at Rutgers University.
Westermann is a historian of the art of the Netherlands, her native country. She is the author of A Worldly Art: The Dutch Republic 1585–1718 (1996), The Amusements of Jan Steen: Comic Painting in the 17th Century (1997), Rembrandt – Art and Ideas (2000), and numerous articles. She has edited five books, including Anthropologies of Art (2005). Her extensive work with museums includes her Rijksmuseum Dossier: Johannes Vermeer (2004), the curatorship of Art and Home: Dutch Interiors in the Age of Rembrandt (Denver Art Museum and Newark Museum, 2001), and numerous exhibition catalogue essays. She is preparing an exhibition and book on the Garden of Eden as an idea with varying resonance in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with significant implications for garden practices in these cultures.
Westermann earned a BA magna cum laude in history at Williams College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and an MA and PhD at NYU's Institute of Fine Arts. Her research has been supported by the American Philosophical Society, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, Clark Art Institute, and National Endowment for the Humanities. She serves on the boards of MASS MoCA, the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Zones (ALIPH), the Little Red School House in New York City, and the Institute of International Education and its Scholar Rescue Fund.