Smithsonian American Art Museum Receives $2 Million From the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation To Advance American Art Scholarship

By East City Art Editorial Team on August 1, 2023
Image Credit: Research fellows share new discoveries about artworks on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum as part of a regular series of gallery talks. Photo by Charla Jasper


Completes $10 Million Campaign Supporting the World’s Oldest and Largest Fellowship Program for American Art

The Smithsonian American Art Museum today announced a $2 million gift from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation that culminates a major campaign to support the museum’s fellowship program, considered the preeminent program for American art scholarship since being founded in 1970. The gift will establish an endowment to support the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Fellowship in modern and contemporary art and the professional development of fellows at the museum. It is the largest single gift to the campaign and the largest gift ever to the museum’s fellowship program.

The fellowship program is part of the museum’s Research and Scholars Center, dedicated to advancing new scholarship by providing emerging and established scholars with financial support, publication guidance, unparalleled research resources and access to a network of colleagues at the Smithsonian and experts across the field.

To mark the 50th anniversary of its fellowship program in 2020, the museum embarked on a fundraising and awareness campaign to strengthen the program’s future and impact. Other recent contributions to the campaign include gifts from the Wyeth Foundation for American Art to establish, in partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Betsy James Wyeth Fellowship in Native American Art for five academic years (2024–2029), and a gift from the artist Audrey Flack to establish the Audrey Flack Short-Term Fellowship, which will contribute to greater equity in the field by supporting researchers whose personal circumstances preclude them from participating in longer-term residencies. Together with support from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, these gifts complete the $10 million goal of the SAAM Fellowship Program 50th Anniversary Campaign.

“Thanks to the deep generosity of supporters like the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, the excellence of SAAM’s exceptional fellowship program and its longstanding role in catalyzing innovative research and new perspectives is strengthened for generations,” said Stephanie Stebich, the Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The first Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Fellowship will be awarded for the 2024–2025 academic year. Applications will open in September and are due by Nov. 1. Information about how to apply will be available on the museum’s website or via email.

About the Research and Scholars Center
The museum’s Research and Scholars Center advances study of art, craft and visual culture that reflects the complexity and diversity of the American experience. Its programs encompass fellowships for emerging and established scholars, fully paid internships for college seniors and graduate students, academic convenings, publications including the peer-reviewed journal for new scholarship American Art, and a range of study collections and art research databases.

Since 1970, the museum has hosted more than 760 fellows and visiting scholars. Former fellows now occupy positions in prominent academic and cultural institutions across North America, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Europe, Russia, the Middle East and South America. In addition to the three newly established fellowships, an additional 12 named opportunities include the Will Barnet Foundation Fellowship for research on American modern art and its influences; the Joe and Wanda Corn Fellowship for scholarship that spans American art and American history; the Douglass Foundation Fellowship for predoctoral research; the Patricia and Phillip Frost Fellowship for American art and visual culture; the George Gurney Fellowship for the study of American sculpture; the Smithsonian American Art Museum fellowship in Asian American art supported by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center; the Smithsonian American Art Museum fellowship in Latino art supported by the Smithsonian Latino Center; the alumni-supported Joshua C. Taylor Fellowship; the Terra Foundation for American Art Fellowships for inclusive and equitable research; the William H. Truettner Fellowship for up to six months of research on American art, a fellowship in American craft supported by the Windgate Foundation; and the Wyeth Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship for the study of excellence in all aspects of American art. SI-230-2023 The Research and Scholars Center is led by Lindsay Harris, and Amelia Goerlitz serves as the center’s chair of academic programs. Information about the 26 fellows appointed for the 2023–2024 academic year is available on the museum’s website.

About Helen Frankenthaler Foundation
Established by Helen Frankenthaler during her lifetime, the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation advances the artist’s legacy and inspires a new generation of practitioners through a range of philanthropic initiatives. Since becoming active in 2013, the foundation has launched groundbreaking initiatives that foster systemic change in the field, from advancing new scholarship and research to helping institutions dramatically reduce their climate impacts.

About the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Its Renwick Gallery
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the flagship museum in the United States for American art and craft. It is home to one of the most significant and inclusive collections of American art in the world. The museum’s main building, located at Eighth and G streets N.W., is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The museum’s Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Check for current hours and admission information. Admission is free. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website:

[Source: Smithsonian American Art Museum]