by P.D. Lesko
On April 6, 2016, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation announced that, “in its ninety-second competition for the United States and Canada, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has awarded 175 Fellowships (including three joint Fellowships) to a diverse group of 178 scholars, artists, and scientists. Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, the successful candidates were chosen from a group of nearly 3,000 applicants.” The fellowships are not limited to faculty on the tenure-track and each year lecturers, adjunct and visiting faculty apply for and win the prestigious awards. This year, 67 of the 178 fellows work as lecturers, adjunct and visiting faculty members.
In all, fifty scholarly disciplines and artistic fields, seventy-one different academic institutions, twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia, and two Canadian provinces are represented by this year’s Fellows, who range in age from thirty-one to eighty-four.
Often characterized as “midcareer” awards, Guggenheim Fellowships are intended for men and women who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.
Edward Hirsch is the president of the Foundation. He said: “It’s exciting to name 178 new Guggenheim Fellows. These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best. Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”
The selection process is rigorous. Applicants are first pooled with others working in the same field, and examined by experts in that field: the work of artists is reviewed by artists, that of scientists by scientists, that of historians by historians, and so on. The Foundation has a network of several hundred advisers, who either meet at the Foundation offices to look at applicants’ work, or receive application materials to read offsite. These advisers, all of whom are themselves former Guggenheim Fellows, then submit reports critiquing and ranking the applications in their respective fields. These recommendations are then forwarded to and weighed by a Committee of Selection, which then determines the number of awards to be made in each area. Occasionally, no application in a given area is considered strong enough to merit a Fellowship.
Established in 1925 by former United States Senator and Mrs. Simon Guggenheim, in memory of seventeen-year-old John Simon Guggenheim, the elder of their two sons, who died April 26, 1922, the Foundation has sought from its inception to “add to the educational, literary, artistic, and scientific power of this country, and also to provide for the cause of better international understanding,” as the Senator explained in his initial Letter of Gift (March 26, 1925).
The Fellowship competition was at first open only to citizens of either the United States or its possessions. In keeping with the Guggenheims’ intentions, as expressed in their First Letter of Gift, the awards were originally titled the “John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships for Advanced Study Abroad.” Beginning with the inaugural class of fifteen Fellows in 1926, all Fellows were required to spend their terms outside of the United States. But eager to place as few restrictions as possible on the Fellows, the Foundation rescinded that requirement with the competition of 1941.
Canadians became eligible for the Guggenheim Fellowships in 1940, and the name of the competition changed to “United States and Canada.”
The amounts of grants vary, and the Foundation does not guarantee it will fully fund any project. Working with a fixed annual budget, the Foundation strives to allocate its funds as equitably as possible. According to the Foundation’s 2014 990 tax return, between 2009 and 2013 the Foundation dispersed between $11.2 and $12.5 million in grants to fellowship winners. As of 2013, the Guggenheim Foundation’s total assets stood at $271.1 million.
The 2016 class of Guggenheim Fellows includes these adjunct faculty winners:
Beth Bachmann (pictured left) is the author of two poetry collections, both published by the University of Pittsburgh Press’ venerable Pitt Poetry Series. Bachmann’s first bookTemper (2009), a collection of poems about her sister’s unsolved murder, won the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Donald Hall Poetry Prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Her new book Do Not Rise (2015), winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, explores war, memory and post-traumatic stress. Poet Michael Collier (Guggenheim Fellow, 1995) calls Do Not Rise “a completely original book filled with disquieting and graphic silence.”
Bachmann said she plans to use the Guggenheim funds to complete a third manuscript, Cease, a book of poems about peace as a process. Poems from Cease are forthcoming or have appeared in American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, The Nation, The New Republic, Ploughshares and Poetry Magazine, and have been featured online at the World Literature Today and NPR’S On Being blogs. Read Beth in conversation about Cease with Nick Flynn (Guggenheim Fellow, 2001) in American Poetry Review.
Bachmann was born and raised near Philadelphia, where her father, a non-combat veteran, worked as a shoe-shiner and locker-room attendant. She was educated at Loyola University of Maryland, the Johns Hopkins University and Concordia University in Montreal. Each fall, she serves as Writer in Residence in the MFA program in Creative Writing at Vanderbilt University.
Amity Gaige (pictured left) is the author of three novels, O My Darling, The Folded World, and Schroder. Since its publication, Schroder has been translated into eighteen languages, and was shortlisted for UK’s The Folio Prize in 2014 and for L’Express Reader’s Prize in France. Schroder was named one of Best Books of 2013 byThe New York Times Book Review, The Huffington Post, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Kirkus, Cosmopolitan, Denver Post, The Millions.com, Amazon.com, Bookmarks, and Publisher’s Weekly, among others. Amity is the winner of fellowships at the MacDowell and Yaddo colonies, a Baltic Writing Residency, and in 2006, she was recognized as one of the “5 Under 35” outstanding emerging writers by the National Book Foundation.
Amity is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has taught creative writing at the University of Rhode Island, Mount Holyoke College, Wesleyan, and Amherst College. Her short stories, essays, and book reviews have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Die Welt, Harper’s Bazaar, The Yale Review, One Story, and elsewhere. She currently lives near Hartford, Connecticut.
Having formally studied literature (B.A. Temple University) and painting (B.F.A. Philadelphia College of Art; M.F.A. Tyler School of Art), Eileen Neff (pictured right) has been working with photo-based images and installations since 1981. Drawing on both historic and contemporary concepts of picturing the natural and constructed world, her work also includes an investigation of studio practice itself as a generative source. From the start, Neff says her projects have developed in relation to the sites where she exhibits, embracing presentation considerations as another critical layer of inquiry.
Her most recent solo exhibitions were at the Bridgette Mayer Gallery in Philadelphia and Bruce Silverstein in New York City. In 2007, the Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia) exhibited a 15-year retrospective of her work, which in 2009 traveled to the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin, Ireland. The same year, The Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina presented a 10-year retrospective of Neff’s work. Other individual installations include the Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia; the Carnegie Mellon Art Gallery, Pittsburgh; Artists Space, New York City; and P.S. 1, Long Island City.
Neff has been the recipient of several awards, including the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, The National Endowment for the Arts Grant, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship, and the Leeway Foundation Artist Grant. She has been awarded residencies at Monte Azul Center for the Arts, Talamanca Mountains, Costa Rica; MacDowell Art Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire; The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia; and La Napoule Art Foundation, La Napoule, France. Most recently, she has been invited to be an Artist in Residence at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky.
Eileen Neff is a Resident Critic in the MFA Program at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and an Adjunct Professor at the University of the Arts. From 1989 to 2002, Neff wrote reviews for Artforum, and continues to write independently.
Jenny Offill (pictured left) is the author of two novels. Her first novel, Last Things, (FSG 1999) was selected as New York Times Notable Book and was a finalist for the LA Times Award for First Fiction. Her second novel, Dept. of Speculation (Knopf, 2014) was chosen as one of the top ten books of the year by the New York Times Book Review and was shortlisted for the Folio Award, the LA Times Book Award and The Pen/Faulkner Award. It has been translated into eleven languages.
In addition, she has written several books for children. The most recent, Sparky, (Schwartz & Wade) received the 2015 Charlotte Zolotow Award and has been adapted into a play.
She is also the co-editor of two collections of literary essays, The Friend Who Got Away (Doubleday, 2005) and Money Changes Everything, (Doubleday, 2007), which she produced in collaboration with the novelist, Elissa Schappell.
Jenny Offill was the recipient of 2006 NYFA award and won the Ellen Levin Award for a novel-in-progress in 2012.
She is currently a visiting writer in the MFA program at Syracuse University.
Allan Wexler (pictured right) has worked in the fields of architecture, design and fine art for forty-five years. He has been represented by the Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York City since 1984 and has exhibited, taught and lectured nationally and internationally since 1972. Wexler currently teaches at Parsons School of Design in New York City.
Wexler is a fellow of the American Academy in Rome, winner of a Chrysler Award for Design Innovation and the Henry J Leir Prize from the Jewish Museum in New York.
He has had numerous national and international solo exhibitions, has lectured on his work internationally and has been reviewed by major art and architecture publications.
In the late 1960’s he was an early member of the group of architects and artists who questioned the perceived divide between art and the design disciplines. They called themselves non-architects or paper architects.
Wexler’s work explores the poetics of space and non-function in the functional.
“I’m an artist in an architect’s body,” says Wexler.
His medium is the complex relationship between art and design. The work considers the power of the handcrafted in the time of digital, the use of chance and the value of accident, our body’s relationship to the built, and our roots from the primitive hut. These experimental works have sought to examine architecture in order to re-evaluate our most basic assumptions about our relationship to what we build, why we build and how that effects and our daily lives.
Wexler is best known as a hands-on maker. He investigates using series, permutations and chance rather than searching for definitive solutions. He makes buildings, furniture, vessels and utensils as backdrops and props for everyday human activity. The works isolate and elevate our daily activities: dining, sleeping, and bathing. And they, in turn, become mechanisms that activate ritual, ceremony and movement, turning the ordinary into theater.