Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship Program

The Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (SARF) offers visual artists the opportunity to spend between one and three months working among the vast collections of the Smithsonian Institution with experts on the Smithsonian staff. The fellowship offers a dynamic research environment in which to investigate the objects, discoveries, and historical events that inspire creative work rather than a studio. The program brings artists together with Smithsonian scholars from a variety of disciplines at museums and research centers in the United States and abroad to explore cross-disciplinary connections between history, art, culture, and science. SARF fellows are chosen by a panel of Smithsonian art experts with input from representatives from the Smithsonian history, culture, and science research communities. Fellowship terms are one to three months and must begin between June 1, 2012 and March 1, 2013. 

The program seeks to recognize outstanding established, mid-career and emerging artists with a demonstrated record of accomplishment. Artists should have a strong exhibition history; experience with public projects or commissions is desirable. Undergraduate students and MFA candidates are not eligible. The fellowship is open to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. Successful applications will make a strong case for research projects that utilize Smithsonian-specific collections and resources. 

Candidates are nominated by Smithsonian curators of contemporary art and research staff; outside nominators representing international curators and scholars; and former and current Smithsonian Artist Research Fellows. Artists who are nominated and asked to submit an application are strongly encouraged to communicate with Smithsonian staff whose research relates to their project interests before applying to confirm the feasibility of projects.  A research staff directory is available online in the publication Smithsonian Opportunities for Research and Study, at .  A complete list of Smithsonian museums and research centers may be found online at:  and .   

Nominators should consider the following in making nominations:  the quality of the artist’s work; his or her record of career accomplishments; and the feasibility and potential significance of the research proposal. 

Nominations must be submitted no later than September 15, 2011
Application Deadline: November 15, 2011
Notification of Decisions: by March 15, 2012

For questions, application guidelines, or to request a nomination form, please contact Pamela Veenbaas at  or 202-633-7070.

bring history to life (literally) with Smithsonian theater programs

a montage of History Alive programs, courtesy of Julia Evins

A college student in 1960s attire carrying a Civil Rights protest sign starts singing in the great hall, leading visitors to a training session to prepare for a student sit-in.  The legendary John Brown thunders in an exhibition pocket theater about his anti-slavery activities and why violence is justified.  Mary Pickersgill lays out a swath of cloth on the museum floor, asking visitors to help design  the stars for her latest project, the 1813 American flag that would become the Star-Spangled Banner.

What is going on at the National Museum of American History (NMAH)?  The History Alive! Theater Program gets visitors talking about history through an interactive, personal presentation of the stories of America’s past that resonate in the nation’s present.  NMAH shows use emotion, tension, and conflict to lead visitors comfortably through a exploration of challenging issues and topics.   

Now NMAH’s award-winning historic theater programs are eyeing the road.  Designed to travel, the programs and their actors can re-create the Smithsonian experience at Affiliate sites.  The performances can be customized to take place in a variety of locations, with different kinds of audiences, or for special celebrations such as Black History Month.  The costs include a daily fee and travel from Washington;  contact your National Outreach Manager for more information.  

Affiliates have the unique opportunity to offer two of the most popular theater programs from the nation’s history museum to their visitors.

Join the Student Sit-Ins
Join the Student Sit-Ins is an interactive presentation of the story of the 1960 sit-in for desegregation that took place at the F.W. Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.  Visitors take part in a training session based on an actual 1960s manual and prepare for their first sit-in.  The program won the Smithsonian’s Education Excellence Award in 2009 for the Institution’s best educational program.  According to one participant, “The Greensboro Lunch Counter performance was the most powerful exhibit that I’ve seen in DC.  The woman who did it was wonderful and passionate and brought me to tears.”  C. Vanarthos 8/13/11.  For more, read about the program in the Smithsonian’s Around the Mall blog.


John Brown makes his case to a jury of museum visitors at the National Museum of American History

The Time Trial of John Brown
History and memory are not always one and the same.  When History is on trial, only Time can be the judge.  Created in 2010, the Time Trials series allows visitors to debate and discuss the historical legacy of controversial figures.  In The Time Trial of John Brown, visitors meet the passionate and committed abolitionist who violently opposed the expansion of slavery and led a raid against the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia in hopes of inciting a slave rebellion.  Visitors discuss and debate Brown’s legacy:  should we remember him as a heroic martyr, a vigilante murderer, something in between, or something else entirely? 

So, if you’re looking for a creative new way to engage your audiences, consider History Alive! Theater Programs and step right in to history!

Professional Development: Broadening your access to the Smithsonian

We like to say that we’re the “portal” to the Smithsonian here in the Affiliations office for all of our more than 165 Affiliate partners.  And I think that is especially true for those Affiliate staff members who have taken part in our professional development programs over the years. Going behind-the-scenes to learn a new skill, conducting valuable research first-hand, or simply meeting with as many experts as possible to bring an idea to reality, and then bringing that knowledge back home to the Affiliate community is something really unique.  And this collaborative feeling benefits both our Visiting Professionals and our Intern Partners who each have the opportunity to bring something new and exciting back to share with their Affiliate community.  

We’re wrapping up our 2011 Intern Partnership and Visiting Professionals programs, but are accepting applications for the 2012 Visiting Professionals Program until August 31, 2011. If you have an intern you’d like to recommend for summer 2012, they’ll be able to apply online this fall–the deadline is January 20, 2012. And don’t forget, we’ve made changes to the Intern Partnership Program to reduce Affiliate costs!

But don’t take it from me- I may be a little biased.  See how our Professional Development programs have benefited your fellow Affiliate colleagues and interns:  

Solimar Salas speaking at MCI's Topics in Museum Conservation lecture.

Solimar Salas– 2011 Visiting Professional from the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (San Juan). Working primarily with the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute (MCI) but with many other Smithsonian units as well, Solimar focused on the policies and procedures involved in developing conservation and research centers. She even was the featured presenter at MCI’s Topics in Museum Conservation lecture! 

Angelica Docog poses with the Honorable Sam Johnson (R-TX), Harold Closter, and Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough after receiving her Visiting Professionals Certificate of Award.

Angelica Docog– 2011 Visiting Professional from the Charlotte Museum of History (Charlotte, NC). Angelica met with more than 30 Smithsonian experts while working on her pan-Institutional project to learn all that she could about models of accessibility at the Smithsonian. Meeting with specialists in accessible museum design, cultural interpreters, community outreach programmers, and educators, Angelica was able to develop a network of professionals that will help her create programs and exhibitions based on the Smithsonian models she observed. 

Annette Fromm visits the Smithsonian Folklife fest during her Visiting Professional residency.

Annette Fromm– 2011 Visiting Professional from the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University (Miami). Annette researched Osceola-related collections across the Smithsonian Institution as well as met with many experts regarding sensitive exhibition development/design, including outreach into the Seminole community. Annette said of her time at the Smithsonian: “A number of insightful and valuable meetings were arranged which introduced me to individuals with lengthy experience working with Native American topics.” 

Intern Partner Marlina Reese in the Numismatics Collection at NMAH.

Marlina Reese– 2011 Intern Partner from the Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future (Dallas, TX). Calling it her “dream internship” to intern at the Smithsonian, Marlina has been working to catalogue Confederate paper money in the Numismatics Collection at the National Museum of American History.  

Annette Shumway– 2010 Intern Partner from Florida International University (Miami).  Annette spent the summer of 2010 working on digitizing the Postmaster General Collection for the National Postal Museum. A roaring success story, Annette was hired by NPM to continue her work on the Postmaster General Collection!  

2010 Intern Partner Annette Shumway at the National Postal Museum.

Remember, the deadline for 2012 Visiting Professionals Program is August 31, 2011! For more information for each program and how to apply, visit the Professional Development Program page on our website.

NMAI colleague couriers artifacts cross-country to Affiliates

Thanks to Raj Solanki of the National Museum of the American Indian for the guest blog post.  

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) received a loan request from Smithsonian Affiliate Riverside Metropolitan Museum in California for their exhibition Beyond Craft: American Indian Women Artists. Curated by Dr. Brenda Focht, this exhibition includes four contemporary Native artists Anita Fields, Pat Courtney Gold, Teri Greeves, and Margaret Wood.

Preparing to install the quilt at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum

What was so compelling about the exhibit, is the relationship that the Museum and Dr. Focht developed with each artist. Each artist was a co-curator to the exhibition and had a hand in developing content and programming. Because of this, NMAI eagerly said yes to the loan request of a Margaret Wood work titled Ribbon Shirt Quilt (NMAI 26/5800).

In March, I couriered the quilt and oversaw the installation at Riverside Museum. As a courier, I get to “see the behind the scenes” before a show goes up, and I was impressed by the objects chosen for the exhibit. Some objects came directly from the artists and private collectors. Other works were lent by other Smithsonian Affiliates – the Heard Museum in Phoenix, and Michigan State University Museum in East Lansing. I wished I could have stayed longer to see their “Meet the Artist” Program, which took place in April. However, the objects spoke for themselves.

Each artist has a way of conveying a story in her medium. The Riverside Museum allowed space for each artist to tell her story whether it was family history or Native identity in today’s context. Displayed prominently is Margaret Wood’s Ribbon Shirt Quilt, which was inspired by the meaning of a ribbon shirt as a symbol of ‘Indianness’. Explained on her website, Margaret writes “The origins of the ribbon shirts harkens to the fringed leather shirts of the Plains Indians. When woven cloth and ribbons became available as trade items, Plains women used the new materials to create facsimiles of the original leather shirts. There are some tribal styles and characteristics and a lot of variety and originality displayed in the ribbon shirts being made. They are worn by men, women, babies, elders and teenagers.”

Margaret Wood's Ribbon Shirt Quilt, installed.

The Riverside Metropolitan Museum is in the heart of Riverside, CA and is part of the city’s effort to revitalize the area. The façade of the building is under renovation. But don’t let the scaffolding fool you. It is not closed! This little building offers some great exhibits on natural history of the area, history on the Native population as well as the community that settled in the area and its continuing growth.

The Riverside Museum was a recipient of the 2010 National Museum of the American Indian’s Indigenous Contemporary Arts Program.

Look for Raj at the 2011 Affiliations’ National Conference Resource Fair on Tuesday afternoon, June 14.  The first five Affiliate staff members to mention this blog post win a prize!

Think Globally

Smithsonian Affiliations staff recently met with Heather Berry, manager of International Programs at the American Association of Museums to learn more about their Museums and Community Collaborations Abroad (MCCA.) MCCA is a program that connects US communities with people abroad using museums as the catalysts and facilitators for connections and collaborations.

The projects are proposed by participating institutions with their international partners and matching funding is available. Heather agreed that working with Smithsonian Affiliates is a wonderful opportunity. “We think Affiliates, which are found all over the country, would make great partners. The diversity of the Affiliates’ missions and collections would be a great fit for international collaboration.”

While visiting the Toh-Atin art gallery in Navajo Nation. US and Taiwan team members talk about weaving techniques

Previous partners  include the World Awareness Children’s Museum in Glens Falls, New York who worked with counterparts at the Museo de la Ciudad in Ecuador. The middle schoolers involved used art and video conferencing to explore challenges faced by their own communities. They produced “traveling culture kits” which can be shared with other middle schools.

The National Taiwan Museum in Taipei City worked with the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History in Boulder to develop an online application that will provide improved access to collections of tribal objects. The application, iShare, enabled both groups to provide additional information about the objects, information not traditionally captured.

To her colleagues from the National Taiwan Museum and the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, Navajo Nation Museum Curator Clarenda Begay explains the use, meaning, and reasons she selected certain items to be included on iShare

“Forging cross-cultural ties is critical to creating a sustainable, prosperous world,” said AAM president Ford W. Bell. “Museums, in partnership with their local communities, are taking a leading role towards that end thanks to the MCCA program and our partners in the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.”

To learn more about how Affiliates can take part in this program, AAM staff will be available at this year’s Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference. Or you may contact MCCA staff at to be added to the emailing list for the next cycle. For more information, visit or follow MCCA on Facebook at

Make the Smithsonian YOUR classroom.

Eric Stanley (left) meeting with Peter Liebhold at the National Museum of American History.

In November 2010, the Sonoma County Museum (Santa Rosa, CA) opened the SITES exhibition Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964 and was ecstatic with the positive response within the local community.  The museum was able to share the bracero story so well in part due to curator Eric Stanley’s participation in the Affiliations Visiting Professionals Program.  Eric was able to meet with and learn from the Smithsonian curators who had planned programming for the original show, which inspired some facets of the installation at the museum, including a hands-on table at which visitors could try out some of the tools braceros used. In all, Eric met with more than 30 Smithsonian experts during his residency and said, “The time I spent with those individuals, each one knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and warmly receptive of my presence, was a tremendous benefit to me and my institution.” Read Eric’s guest blogs about the exhibition and his visiting professionals experience at the Smithsonian.  

Fall 2010 visiting professional, Silvia Ros from The Wolfsonian at Florida International University (Miami) worked at the National Museum of American Indian's Cultural Resources Center.

How can you apply for the Affiliations Visiting Professionals Program?

  • If you are a full-time Affiliate staff member looking to gain more experience in a certain area of interest for your museum, you’re eligible.
  • NEW THIS YEAR!- To help you coordinate your schedule with your sponsoring Affiliate museum, selected candidates have the opportunity to complete their program during any consecutive two-weeks beginning October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012.
  • Affiliate organizations are still not responsible for providing a stipend!
  • Click here for application requirements.
  • Apply online by August 1, 2011!   

Annette Shumway interned at the National Postal Museum in 2010.

And perhaps you have an intern you’d like to recommend to spend a summer at the Smithsonian working on an area of interest for your museum? In 2010, the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University (Miami) recommended Annette Shumway for the Affiliations Intern Partnership Program.  Once accepted, Annette spent the summer at the National Postal Museum cataloging and digitizing the Postmaster General collection. During the second part of her internship back at the Frost, she piloted a digital imaging project involving the permanent collections, made recommendations for turning digitizing projects into programs at the Frost, and researched elements to include in an emergency management plan for the digital collection–all skills she was able to further practice after spending the summer at the Smithsonian.  And even better…Annette was HIRED by the National Postal Museum at the end of her internship and is now a staff member continuing her work on the Postmaster General collection! Read Annette’s blog about her internship experience at the Smithsonian.  

Shawn Pirelli, an intern partner from Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, MA) researched at the NMAH Archives in 2010.

How can you recommend an intern for the 2012 Intern Partnership Program?

  • If you have an established relationship with a college or graduate student (prior/current intern or volunteer perhaps) and a specific project in mind for the intern to work on during the second half of their internship back at the Affiliate organization, direct them to apply online!
  • Interns will work in a more general area of interest while at the Smithsonian and on a more specific project back at the Affiliate organization during the second half of their program.
  • NEW! Affiliate organizations are no longer responsible for any of the intern stipend. Interns will receive a modest stipend from the Affiliations office for D.C. commuting expenses.
  • Interns can apply online! Note- Online registration for the 2012 summer program will not open in October 2011.
  • Click here for application requirements. 

Who can you contact with questions?  Elizabeth Bugbee, External Affairs and Professional Development Coordinator- (202) 633-5304,