Guggenheim Fellowship Awards for the United States and Canada, 2011

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has awarded 180 Fellowships today to a diverse group of scholars, artists, and scientists in its eighty-seventh annual competition for the United States and Canada.  Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, the successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants. 

The great variety of backgrounds, fields of study, and accomplishments among Guggenheim Fellows is one of the hallmarks of the Fellowship program.  This year’s Fellows range in age from twenty-seven to eighty-four, and originate from towns and cities across the United States and Canada.  Their Fellowship projects will carry them to all parts of the world.

The projects supported by this year’s Fellowships are as varied as the Fellows themselves.  David M. Eagleman will be researching the neurobiology and genetics of synesthesia at the perceptual, neurobiological, and genetic levels, with an aim to understand differences in conscious sensory experience across the population.  Rosemary Mahoney will be studying blindness while addressing the issues encountered by ninety percent of blind individuals in developing countries who have no access to education. 

Robert Faggen will be writing a biography of author Ken Kesey, and T. J. Stiles will be working on a biography of George Armstrong Custer.  Historian Thomas George Andrews will be undertaking an animals’ history of the United States, revealing the wide-ranging and vital roles that “other than human” animals have played in American culture, economics, and politics.  Bonnie Jo Campbell, a novelist who traveled with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus for five months, will be writing a series of interlocking stories set in a contemporary American circus, revealing a surprisingly rigid social hierarchy in this multicultural institution.  Anthropologist Jennifer Ellen Robertson will conduct research on service robots, focusing on their safety, security, and convenience in relation to the political economy of Japan.
Katherine Franke will examine the dilemmas of citizenship and its relationship to marriage and freedom, while Stephen Anthony Gardbaum, an internationally recognized constitutional scholar, will study the new commonwealth model of constitutionalism.  Adina Hoffman will focus on one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Jerusalem, and the stories of individuals who helped shape its design between 1917 and 1948.  Her particular emphasis will be on the presence, and sometimes glaring absence, of both physical and psychic beauty in a place of prolonged conflict.

In East of Eden, photographer Pipo Hieu Nguyen-duy, once a Vietnamese refugee, will be returning to Vietnam to visually document the forgotten voices of the war.  Artist Charles Ross will create a Shadow Field on Chupainas Mesa, located in the New Mexico desert.  Shadow Field will be an earth drawing that collects all of the shadows cast by the Solar Pyramid, a sculptural element of his earthwork Star Axis, an architectonic sculpture that frames the sun and the stars, enabling one to experience the Earth’s changing alignments.  Jesus Mora, a visual artist, will create paintings, drawings, and an illustrated version of the Pop Wuj, based on his studies of that Mayan sacred book and his immersion in the iconography of the related codices and the Mayan calendar.

Artist Judith Barry will be working on Cairo Stories, a collection of at least twenty stories that she will edit into short video monologues to be performed by Egyptian actors in English and Arabic.  She will present several of the stories at the Sharjah Biennale.  Choreographer Ananya Chatterjea will launch a quartet of evening-length pieces exploring how women in global communities of color experience and resist violence.  In addition, Randy Weston, a composer, will be creating a major new piece for jazz orchestra, African Suite, based on his lifelong study of the culture, heritage, and music of Africa.

In all, sixty-two disciplines and seventy-four different academic institutions are represented by this year’s Fellows. Fifty-one Fellows are unaffiliated or hold adjunct or part-time positions at universities.  As in past years, supplemental support for some Fellows with no formal academic affiliation is provided by the Leon Levy Foundation. The Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation has again funded a Fellowship in Constitutional Studies.

According to President Edward Hirsch, “The Guggenheim Foundation began as a wonderfully novel experiment.  In its first few years, the Foundation supported maybe a dozen Fellows in a few key fields.  Over the years, its size and impact have grown tremendously.  The initial $3 million endowment has ballooned to over $260 million.  We now give 180 fellowships in some 78 fields, including such disciplines as computer science, astrophysics, and African studies.  We also have a sturdy Latin American/Caribbean program.  But, to me, the most significant thing about the Foundation may be the continuity of our mission, a commitment to funding individuals at the highest level to do the work they were meant to do.  We don’t support groups or organizations.  We have always bet everything on the individual, which seems to me increasingly rare in a corporatized America.”   

Since its establishment in 1925, the Foundation has granted nearly $290 million in Fellowships to more than 17,000 individuals.  Time and again, the Foundation’s choice of Fellows has proved prescient: thousands of celebrated alumni and scores of Nobel, Pulitzer, and other prizewinners grace its rolls.

In a time of decreased funding for individuals in the arts, humanities, and sciences, the Guggenheim Fellowship program is all the more important.  The continued and ever more generous donations from friends, Trustees, former Fellows, and other foundations have ensured that the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation will be able to continue the mission Senator and Mrs. Simon Guggenheim set for it:  to "add to the educational, literary, artistic, and scientific power of this country, and also to provide for the cause of better international understanding."