The Pew Fellowships at the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage was established by The Pew Charitable Trusts in 1991, and annually awards up to 12 fellowships of $60,000 to artists of exemplary talent in the five-county Philadelphia area.
The Pew Fellowships' goal is to assist the region's most talented artists in furthering and innovating their work by awarding substantial financial support accompanied by a set of customized, focused professional- and career-development resources. Through such support, the Pew Fellowships program aims to elevate the quality and raise the profile of individual artistic work in the region, create a strong community of Pew Fellows, and help them achieve their artistic and career goals by connecting them to additional resources in the region and in the field.
The goals of Pew Fellowships support those of the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage's objectives: To foster artistic excellence, nurture a thriving arts environment in the region, and raise the area's profile nationally and internationally as a nexus for artistic expression, cultural interpretation, and the exchange of ideas vital to the arts and their audiences.
The program aims to support artists who are poised to take full advantage of what the fellowship has to offer to significantly impact and advance their work. Fellowships may be awarded to artists at any stage of their career development and to artists working in a wide range of aesthetics and traditions.
Since the programs inception in 1991, the Pew Fellowships at the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage has awarded fellowships to 256 artists representing the breadth and depth of talent in the Philadelphia area. Following a year-long research and evaluation process that was informed by input from a variety of artists and cultural leaders in and outside of the region, PFA made changes to the program designed to maximize the impact of the awards in assisting the region's most talented artists in furthering their work.
Beginning with the 2010 cycle, artists are nominated and invited to apply to the program; artists working in any discipline (or disciplines) will be considered each year, and the fellowship will now also be accompanied by a set of customized professional- and career-development resources to expand the impact of the grant for the fellows.
Prior to these changes, Pew Fellowships made awards to artists working in 12 specific discipline categories, which rotated on a four-year cycle. This meant that each year applications were accepted from artists working in only three categories and each category was only considered once every four years.
By removing the discipline-category restrictions, Pew Fellowships is able to receive applications from the region's most promising artists, regardless of artistic discipline, in any given year. The current process allows nominations of originating artists who work in any discipline, or across multiple disciplines, within the same grant cycle. The new eligibility guidelines also allow artists whose practice defies genre boundaries to submit examples from their full body of work without being confined to a single discipline category.
Before Pew Fellowships introduced the nomination process, each year as many as 400 artists would compete for 12 fellowships. While it was encouraging to receive so many applications, the Pew Fellowships program staff focused a disproportionate amount of time and financial resources on simply administering the large volume of incoming applications.
With the introduction of a nomination process, the 60 artists who are nominated and invited to apply have a far greater chance for success. Moreover, due to a reduction in the number of applications, the artists can be asked to provide more and fuller information about their work, and the evaluators and panelists are in turn able to spend more time with each application. This level of in-depth review provides the kind of thoughtful and thorough assessment that is required to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the complexities of each artist's work. Through this rigorous process, the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage believes it will continue to ensure that the region's most promising artists are rewarded with a fellowship.
Finally, resources formerly expended on administration can now be invested directly in the Fellows in the form of robust professional-development support that responds to each fellow's individual needs.
Artists are nominated and invited to apply for the fellowship. Thirty nominators with a deep knowledge of artists working in this region and representing a wide range of expertise and experience are identified by Pew Fellowships program staff in consultation with an advisory group. Each nominator will recommend two artists to apply; the nominators will remain anonymous to ensure the integrity of the process. The substance of the nominators' recommendations, however, will become part of the material later reviewed along with the artist's application to the program.
Each nomination will:
- Discuss the quality of the artist's work
- Provide evidence of the artist's serious commitment to their practice
- Explain the potential impact of a fellowship for the nominee
Since many artists work in ways that defy categorization, we also encourage the nominators to consider collaborative teams (one award per group; collaborative teams are limited to three people and should have an ongoing history of working together), inter- or multi-disciplinary artists, and those whose work does not fit conventional definitions.
Nomination Notification and Artist Applications
Each nominated artist will be notified by Pew Fellowships program staff of his or her nomination and be formally invited to apply for a fellowship. The identity of the nominator will not be revealed at any time. However, the written nomination itself will become part of the materials reviewed by the evaluators and the final panel.
Upon invitation, artists fill out an application and submit support materials as appropriate to their work. Following receipt of the artists' applications and support materials, the review and selection process proceeds as outlined below.
Fellowships are awarded through a two-part selection process; and applicants are evaluated and selected according to these criteria: 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.
First, applications are reviewed by a small group of evaluators who, like the nominators, are a diverse cross-disciplinary group of arts and community leaders including curators, directors, presenters, writers, and artists, among others. All of the evaluators come from outside of the region. They are selected for the breadth and depth of their knowledge of their respective fields, and are drawn from the relevant areas of practice that reflect the applicant pool. The evaluators are responsible to review nominations and assess, comment on, and rank the artists' applications based on the same criteria that the nominators have addressed. Only applications that are ranked highly by the evaluators go on to the second step of the review process.
Next, the Pew Fellowships program convenes a panel composed of artists and arts professionals, also from outside of the region, to review all of the highly ranked applications and, using the same criteria, select the new fellows. Like the evaluators, these panelists are selected for the breadth of their knowledge and expertise, and are drawn from the relevant areas of practice that reflect the applicant pool. This panel reviews all of the accumulated material, including nominators' and evaluators' comments, for each of the artists' applications before making its decisions. The final panel roster will change from year to year; however, some individual panelists may serve in consecutive years.
All artists who have applied are notified by email, simultaneously, of their application status and the panelists' final decisions. For the 2013 cycle, fellowship application results will be announced in late June 2013. Names of panelists and evaluators are disclosed at the same time as the fellowship results. Names of nominators will remain confidential.