Apply for a Fellowship in American Art

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The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) and its Renwick Gallery invite applications to its premier fellowship program, the oldest and largest in the world for the study of American art. Scholars from any discipline whose research engages the art, craft, and visual culture of the United States are encouraged to apply, as are those who foreground new perspectives, materials, and methodologies Fellowships are residential and support full-time research in the Smithsonian collections. SAAM is devoted to advancing inclusive excellence in the discipline of art history and in higher education more broadly, and therefore encourages candidates who identify as members of historically underrepresented groups to apply.

How To Apply

The museum hosts a number of fellows each year through the Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program (SIFP), and also awards its own named fellowships to candidates from this general pool. 

 

Applicants must identify a member of SAAM’s research staff to serve as primary fellowship advisor in order to hold a residency at this museum. They are encouraged to notify the potential advisor in advance of their application. To find a potential advisor whose research interests match yours, browse the museum’s staff listings in the Smithsonian Opportunities for Research and Study guide or search our Staff Bios. Applicants to the SIFP who propose a SAAM primary advisor will automatically be considered for the museum’s named fellowships: 

 

  • The Will Barnet Foundation Fellowship is awarded biennially and funds a full year of research on a topic related to American modern art, including its influence on later generations. 
  • The Joe and Wanda Corn Fellowship is endowed by their former students Mike Wilkins and Sheila Duignan and supports scholars whose research interests span American art and American history. The recipient is jointly appointed at SAAM and the National Museum of American History and draws on the resources of both museums. 
  • The Douglass Foundation Fellowship in American Art provides for a full year of dissertation research at the museum. 
  • The Audrey Flack Short-Term Fellowship*** facilitates one month onsite for a scholar whose personal circumstances (i.e., financial constraints, employment conditions, care-giving responsibilities, or other limitations) preclude them from participating in longer-term residencies. 
  • The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Fellowship advances research on modern and contemporary art. Residency is available for twelve months at the predoctoral level or nine months at the postdoctoral or senior level. 
  • The Patricia and Phillip Frost Fellowship supports a year of research in American art and visual culture.  
  • The George Gurney Fellowship funds a six-month research appointment in American sculpture in honor of SAAM’s late curator emeritus of sculpture. Residencies should take place June–December 2025 or January–August 2026. Contribute to this fund 
  • The Joshua C. Taylor Fellowship is intermittently awarded and is supported by alumni and friends in memory of the museum’s former director and founder of the fellowship program. Contribute to this fund 
  • The William H. Truettner Fellowship provides for six months of research in recognition of Mr. Truettner’s career of nearly fifty years as a curator of painting and sculpture at SAAM. Residencies should take place June–December 2025 or January–August 2026. Contribute to this fund
  • The Wyeth Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship is awarded for the advancement and completion of a doctoral dissertation that concerns the study, appreciation, and recognition of excellence in all aspects of American art. 
  • The Betsy James Wyeth Fellowship in Native American Art*** seeks to foster new scholarship on Native art of the United States that centers and elevates Indigenous methodologies, knowledges, and communities. This one-year fellowship is jointly hosted by SAAM and the National Museum of the American Indian and provides scholars with access to the resources of both museums.  
     
  • ***The Audrey Flack and Betsy James Wyeth Fellowships have unique applications, tenure lengths, stipend levels, and deadlines. Candidates for these two fellowships must submit separate applications.

 

Applicants for any fellowship who are conducting research with Indigenous communities should describe the current state of consultation or collaboration with Indigenous artists and estates, knowledge holders, and communities relevant to the work, and demonstrate how the research is accountable to these rights holders. A letter of support from a tribal community member, knowledge holder, artist, or artist’s estate will strengthen a proposal and may be submitted as an additional reference letter. If applying to the Betsy James Wyeth Fellowship in Native American Art, such a letter of support is required. 

Eligibility

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Scholars from any discipline who are pursuing research on topics that engage with American art, craft, and visual culture may apply at one of the following levels: 

  • Graduate student fellowships support independent research by MA and PhD students who have not yet advanced to candidacy. Students must be formally enrolled in a graduate program of study at a degree-granting institution at the time they apply. They must have completed at least one full-time semester or its equivalent before the fellowship begins. 
  • Predoctoral fellowships are for those who have completed coursework and preliminary examinations for their doctoral degree and are engaged in university-approved dissertation research. 
  • Postdoctoral fellowships are available to support independent research projects by scholars who have earned a PhD or equivalent within the last seven years. 
  • Senior fellowships are intended for scholars with a distinguished publication record who have held their doctoral degree for more than seven years or who possess a commensurate record of professional accomplishment. 
  • No employee or contractor of the Smithsonian Institution may hold a Smithsonian fellowship during the time of their employment or contract, nor may an award be offered to any person who has been employed by or under contract to the Smithsonian in the previous year, without prior approval. 

Selection

Applications will be evaluated on the originality and quality of the proposed research project; the applicant’s academic standing, scholarly qualifications, and experience; the project’s contribution to a more equitable and inclusive history of American art; and the extent to which the Smithsonian, through its research staff and resources, can contribute to the stated research goals. For named fellowships, additional selection criteria may apply. 

SAAM believes that recruiting and maintaining an inclusive and diverse cohort of fellows is critical to our mission. We welcome submissions from applicants who are people of color; who are Indigenous; with disabilities; who are LGBTQ+; who are first-generation college graduates; who are from low-income households; and who are veterans. The Smithsonian does not discriminate on grounds of race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, parental status, or marital status. 

Support and Tenure

The stipend for a twelve-month fellowship is $45,000 for predoctoral scholars and $57,000 for postdoctoral and senior scholars, with an allowance of up to $5,000 available for short research trips. Additional allowances may be provided to help with temporary relocation to the Smithsonian and the cost of health insurance. Although the program is structured to support full-year residencies, applicants who need less time to complete their research may apply for as few as three months with a prorated stipend. Residencies should take place between June 1, 2025, and August 31, 2026, and must begin on the 1st or 15th of the month. Housing is not provided. 

Graduate student fellowships are available for ten-week terms and are awarded a stipend of $10,000. An additional allowance may be provided to assist with temporary relocation to the Smithsonian. Residencies are available in June, July, and August. 

The Audrey Flack and Betsy James Wyeth Fellowships have unique stipend levels and tenure lengths.

The Smithsonian Office of International Relations will assist with arranging J-1 exchange visas for all fellowship recipients who require them. 

Resources and Facilities

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The holdings of the Smithsonian American Art Museum reveal the United States’ rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. This unparalleled collection of over 46,000 works by more than 13,000 artists includes special strengths in nineteenth- and twentieth-century sculpture, nineteenth-century landscape painting and imagery of the American West, Gilded Age and American Impressionist painting, twentieth-century realism, New Deal art, photography and graphic art, self-taught art, Latinx art, work by African American artists, and time-based media. Current collecting initiatives focus on the work of Asian American and Native American artists. The collection is housed in a National Historic Landmark building—shared with the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) and the Archives of American Art—where the expansive holdings of the Luce Foundation Center, a three-story visible art storage facility, can be accessed daily. Contemporary American craft and decorative art are featured in the Renwick Gallery, a branch of the museum located across from the White House. 

Each scholar is provided a study carrel in SAAM’s Research and Scholars Center, situated across the street from the museum. There, fellows have access to a 180,000-volume library that specializes in American art, history, and biography; the Archives of American Art; the graphics collections of SAAM and NPG; the Joseph Cornell Study Center; and the Nam June Paik Archive, as well as a variety of image collections and research databases. Located in downtown Washington, D.C., SAAM’s Research and Scholars Center is a short walk from other Smithsonian museums and libraries, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the National Gallery of Art.  

Regular lunchtime seminars, gallery talks, public lectures, and symposia provide a forum for lively scholarly exchange. Publishing guidance is provided by the staff of SAAM’s peer-reviewed journal American Art. Additional professional development resources are made possible by the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Endowment

For More Information

Amelia Goerlitz, Chair of Academic Programs
Telephone (202) 633-8353
Email SAAMFellowships@si.edu

SAAM Also Hosts Fellows From These Programs

For Other Smithsonian Opportunities