Monday, October 24, 2011

VMFA Fellowships – Supporting Virginia’s Artists and Art Students Since 1940


Who doesn’t love free money?  That question might have been on the mind of the late John Lee Pratt when he created the Artists Fellowship Fund, but most definitely on Pratt’s mind was a dedication to supporting the artistic abilities and creative potential of residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
 Art by Kevin Murphy, a VMFA Fellowship recepient

In 1940 Pratt, originally from Fredericksburg, created an endowment with the vision that his gift would be used to provide funding to professional artists and art students from Virginia who excel in their chosen disciplines.  Today Pratt’s generosity is combined with funding from two other private sources, the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation, and the J. Warwick McClintic Jr. Scholarship Fund, and offered through VMFA’s Art & Education Division in the form of Visual Arts Fellowships.  Since 1940, VMFA has been able to award over $4 million to over 1,100 artists from Virginia. And in addition to awards for visual artists, VMFA also offers awards to graduate students studying Art History.  The Fellowship is a merit-based competition in which recipients are selected anonymously by distinguished jurors from both in-state and out-of-state.  And with no application fee, it’s really a chance to win free money!
The recipients of VMFA Fellowships really do stand out in their fields as exceptional artists, and to see this all you have to do is look at the roster of recipients from the program’s 71-year history.  The late Cy Twombly (of Lexington) received two Fellowships in the 1950s that helped fund travel to Europe at the start of his career, trips that undoubtedly had an impact on his journey to becoming a world-renowned artist.  Noted photographer Emmet Gowin (of Danville) was also the recipient of two Fellowships in the 1960s; Gowin used his awards to fund his studies at the Richmond Professional Institute and the Rhode Island School of Design.  Both Twombly and Gowin are featured in VMFA’s permanent collection.
And it’s not just recipients of the past that make headlines in the art world.  R. Nicholas Kuszyk (of Richmond), recipient in 2002, continues to make a name for himself as he reinvents the concept of street art with amusing and thought-provoking graffiti that can be found throughout Brooklyn, NY.  Heather Harvey (of Big Stone Gap), recipient in 2009, was featured in a solo exhibition of the same year entitled Fractious Happy at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts.  And if you happen to be traveling through the Richmond International Airport this month, you might notice the VMFA-managed exhibition of monumental portrait photographs on display by 2011 recipient Jason Horowitz (of Arlington); crossing into another media, Horowitz recently collaborated on the short film A B C, which was selected for this year’s DC Short Film Festival.
The names of Fellowship recipients are also popping up in popular culture.  Vince Gilligan (of Richmond), a two-time Fellowship recipient, has received accolades and Emmy nominations for his work producing and directing the hit TV series The X-Files and Breaking Bad.  Megan Holley (of Richmond), a recipient in 2001, wrote the screenplay for the award-winning feature film Sunshine Cleaning. 
Currently VMFA offers $8,000 awards to Professionals, $6,000 awards to graduate students, and $4,000 awards to undergraduate students.  So if you meet the applicant criteria, there’s nothing to lose by applying, and potentially so much to gain!  Head to www.VMFA.museum/Fellowships for an application and all other information on how to apply, and don’t forget the deadline – November 10, 2011.
- Elizabeth Cruickshanks, VMFA Fellowship Coordinator

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