SAAM Fellowships: Celebrating Fifty Years

  • For fifty years, the Smithsonian American Art Museum has fostered new scholarship through its preeminent fellowship program, the oldest and largest in the world for the study of American art.

    JOHN DAVIS: The Smithsonian American Art Museum is one of the most comprehensive collections of American art in the world. The year 2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of the fellowship program here at the museum.

    STEPHANIE STEBICH: We seek to tell the most diverse and inclusive story of American art. Among our crown jewels is the museum's fellowship program.

    JD: Over the years, it has grown. It has become an international center, where scholars come together for a full year to pursue their own research but to do it in the context of ongoing discussions, exchanges, and dialogue that can only happen when scholars essentially live together in real time and in a real space.

    RICHARD J. POWELL: This is an institution that's been really committed to thinking across time, across media, to say something about what it means to be an American and how that is not a monolith but actually quite diverse and complex.

    KIRSTEN PAI BUICK: What makes this program unique is the Smithsonian. Having access to the entirety of the museum complex, not only as places to look at art but also to just sit and be with history.

    WANDA M. CORN: There is a feeling here, I think, that we're all in a common endeavor. We all want to support increasing and furthering the knowledge of American art.

    JD: I like to think of the Research and Scholars Center as the brain trust of the field of American art. It really is an important center of study like nothing else in the field of American art history.

    AMELIA GOERLITZ: In 1970, Joshua C. Taylor, who was a renowned professor at the University of Chicago, was brought on as the museum's fifth director, and he established the fellowship program at SAAM. He wanted American art to come alive for the general public, but he realized that that required sound and creative scholarship.

    ALEX J. TAYLOR: The access that SAAM provides to the resources in and around the museum and to the Smithsonian Institution, more broadly, are unparalleled. Being at SAAM really helped solidify my identity as a scholar of American art.

    STEPHANIE DELAMAIRE: As a fellow, you become part of a community. Washington, D.C., is a wonderful place to be, too. I mean, to do research in American art, there are so many things going on all the time that it was definitely one of the most enriching periods in my life.

    AG: SAAM's fellowship program supports emerging and established scholars who are conducting innovative research on American art. They are working on trans-cultural, transnational, and interdisciplinary projects that really advance the field.

    ASMA NAEEM: It was just an incredible way to get to know people from very different backgrounds, working on very different topics, but to see that there was this through line throughout of this common investment in finding out a new narrative for American art.

    SS: The fellows help bring our collections to life for future generations. These scholars go on to write important publications, curate significant exhibitions, teach students in art history and in other subject matters, and they help us advance the field of American art in ways beyond what we can imagine.

    AJT: A half-century of learning…

    SD: A half-century of research…

    KPB: A half-century of community…

    RJP: A half-century of ideas…

    WMC: A half-century of advancing American art…

    AG: A half-century of SAAM fellowships.

    SS: I'm excited to see what the next fifty years bring.