Pew Fellowships revamps methods for nominations Experts, not artists themselves, will enter names for grants. Fields will not be restricted.

Posted: November 06, 2009

Pew Fellowships in the Arts is making substantial changes to its guidelines.

The program will continue to award $60,000 grants each year to 12 artists, musicians, and other arts practitioners. But artists will no longer be able to nominate themselves; instead, 30 nominators will recommend a pool of 60 candidates. Those 60 will be invited to apply, and after review by a panel of experts, 12 winners will be selected.

In addition, each year's list of fellows potentially could include artists working in any discipline, from the visual arts to film and video to music. In the past, a four-year rotating cycle dictated which kinds of artists could apply in a given year.

The new guidelines, which come after examining the program's 19-year history, will be used to determine the next round of fellows, to be announced in September.

The elimination of year-specific disciplinary categories was both a response to some artists' not being able to apply at critical points in their careers, and to the ongoing challenge of not being able to place certain artists in neat niches.

"There are artists who in the past have not been able to apply to us with their full body of work, since they've been limited by the category, and it's not doing the best by the artist," said Melissa Franklin, director of the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, which is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

"Some artists have given up on the process because they haven't been successful in getting the grant yet. What we're hoping is that we'll see some new people we haven't seen before."

The Pew will continue its policy that an artist who has received a Pew Fellowship in the past cannot win another, Franklin said, and only artists living and working in the Philadelphia area will be eligible.

The 30 anonymous nominators will look at several criteria in making their two recommendations each, according to new materials released by the Pew yesterday: "artistic excellence; evidence of serious commitment to their practice and the ability to use the financial support effectively; and the impact the fellowship will have on the artist."

Additional changes may be explored. The Pew Fellowships program would like to find ways of maintaining more contact with all of its previous winners.

"One thing we know is that additional support is needed. We all know that artists need additional resources beyond the money," Franklin said. "Financial and business management are important, connecting artists with artists is important. Mentoring is one idea. We want to be engaging with recipients in a more meaningful way to extend the impact of the grant. We're investigating the details of that right now."

Since its start in 1991, the Pew Fellowships program has awarded 237 artists fellowships with cash awards of $50,000 or, in the last two years, $60,000. In some years as many as 400 artists applied for the 12 available fellowships.

Contact culture writer Peter Dobrin at 215-854-5611 or pdobrin@phillynews.com. Read his blog at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/artswatch

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