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 What is the role of my sponsor/advisor?

The sponsor/advisor plays an invaluable role for SARF fellows. Through their sponsors/advisors, fellows gain access to Smithsonian collections, research centers, and resources. A sponsor/advisor will also discuss the fellow’s research topic with him or her. Serving as a sponsor/advisor might mean nothing more than meeting the fellow for coffee and conversation. Other fellows may have more extensive needs. Please clearly communicate your needs to your sponsor/advisor so that s/he can assert what s/he can and cannot offer you.

Since each research facility and museum has its own process for obtaining ID badges and access cards; access to workstations, email and phone; and access to collections; we ask that each SI Unit facilitate these processes based on the guidelines of the specific institution. If the SI Unit is unable to provide a computer, email, or phone, please bring a laptop and cell phone with you. Please note: if the SI Unit is unable to facilitate access to libraries and collections areas, the Unit should direct you to the appropriate contact person. Sponsors/advisors are asked to extend their network of contacts to you and to facilitate introductions to additional colleagues who may be of assistance.


When do I begin looking for a sponsor/advisor?

It is essential that artists confirm the feasibility of their proposed projects prior to becoming candidates. Artists are strongly encouraged to communicate with members of the Smithsonian staff whose research relates to their project interests before submitting a candidate application. Online resources include: a research staff directory available through the publication Smithsonian Opportunities for Research and Study, and complete lists of Smithsonian museums and research centers.


What is the selection process?

A review panel composed of Smithsonian art curators, in consultation with representatives from the Smithsonian science and history communities, will make the funding recommendations to the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, who will make final decisions.


What are the selection criteria?

  • Proposal concept is innovative
  • Proposal is Smithsonian-specific in that it truly relies upon the resources of Smithsonian collections, scholars or grounds in order to succeed
  • The quality of artwork is outstanding, based on technical finesse and conceptual sophistication
  • Applicant’s exhibition record is well-established or promising (showing progress beyond home region)
  • Proposal feasibility based on feedback from proposed sponsors or host units. (*Please note that only the proposals of the finalists are sent out for review).


How long are SARF fellowships?

Tenure dates at the Smithsonian need not be consecutive but must total a period of one to three months, depending on the specifics of the award. Changes to the dates of the applicants proposed tenure are subject to agreement by the hosting Smithsonian Unit.


Will I be provided studio space?

The SARF fellowship is a unique artist residency program in that it provides access to scholars, archives and collections. It is a time to spend contemplating new ideas in a dynamic and intellectual framework. No studio space is provided, and fellows are responsible for locating their own housing.

Smithsonian Art and Artist Files


Am I required to produce artwork after my SARF fellowship?

SARF fellowships are to be used to support research and do not require recipients to create or exhibit artwork. However, many SARF fellows have gone on to produce artworks and exhibitions as a result of their fellowships.


Is there an opportunity for me to lecture at the Smithsonian?

SARF fellows are asked to present a public lecture or informal seminar on their research at or near the conclusion of the fellowship, and also to provide a written evaluation of their experiences at the Smithsonian.