The Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (SARF) program was launched in 2007 to provide outstanding visual artists from across the world a unique opportunity to work with Smithsonian museums, research sites, collections, and scholars, so they may conduct research that inspires new artwork. SARF Fellows spend one to two months in residence at the Smithsonian immersed in its unparalleled collections and multidisciplinary scholarly expertise, building connections between art, science, history and culture. The program embodies the depth and breadth of the Smithsonian. Fellows have studied not only what is on view in the Smithsonian’s nineteen museums and National Zoo, but also the vast collections in non-public areas, libraries, archives, gardens, laboratories, storage facilities and field sites in the U.S. and abroad.
As the program’s reputation has grown, SARF has become increasingly competitive and international. See former Smithsonian Artist Research Fellows at the end of this page. You can also find additional information and video recordings from the 10th Anniversary Symposium here.
This unique residency offers creative collaboration in a dynamic environment. It brings together Smithsonian scholars and distinguished visual artists from a variety of disciplines throughout the United States and abroad to explore cross-disciplinary connections. It allows the Smithsonian a unique opportunity to see the collections and resources in different ways. It inspires new directions and creative expression for both artists and Smithsonian staff. It strengthens the arts community within the Smithsonian and broadens public interest in and understanding of contemporary art. SARF fellowships are explicitly for artist research and do not require recipients to create or exhibit artwork. Consequently, studio space is not provided.
How it Works:
You are eligible to apply for a SARF Fellowship if the following applies to you:
Secured a nomination by the deadline.
Received an email from the Office of Academic Appointments and Internships inviting you to apply a week or two after the nomination period closes.
Outstanding visual artist.
Strong exhibition history beyond the home region.
Demonstrated record of artistic accomplishment.
Ability to create a strong research proposal that utilizes Smithsonian specific resources.
Ability to independently secure a nomination and a Smithsonian advisor.
U.S. citizens and foreign nationals with proficiency in written and spoken English.
Ability to independently arrange accommodation and travel.
Self-reliant and flexible.
You are NOT eligible to apply for a SARF Fellowship if the following applies to you:
Undergraduate students and MFA candidates.
Smithsonian employee or contractors if the Smithsonian Fellowship would coincide with their employment.
Any person who has been employed or under contract with the Smithsonian in the previous year is ineligible for a Smithsonian Fellowship unless he/she is given approval from the Office of Academic Appointments and Internships.
To be considered for this fellowship, artists need to be nominated and the information submitted by the nominator by the deadline, September 28, 2023. Each nominator may nominate one (1) artist.
Artists seeking nomination:
Consider the research you want to conduct at the Smithsonian.
Reach out to the Smithsonian research staff member to discuss your research and ask if s/he would be willing to 1) nominate you and 2) serve as your advisor during a 1-2 month fellowship if you are selected.
If the Smithsonian research staff member agrees to nominate you they will need to submit the information by the deadline.
After the nomination deadline has passed, you will receive instructions about the next steps to apply for the fellowship.
Please Note: Incomplete nominations sent after the deadline, and nominations with incorrect email addresses will not be accepted.
Access to Application and Process for Nominees
After the nomination period ends on September 28, 2023, instructions and guidelines for the application process will be emailed to the nominees within a few days. Applications will be due Tuesday, December 12 2023, at 11:59 PM EST. Notifications will go out in April 2024.
Tenure dates at the Smithsonian can be divided into multiple visits, but must total a period of one to two months, depending on the specifics of each fellow’s award letter. Proposed dates must be between July 1, 2024 and May 31, 2025
Any changes to tenure dates must be approved in advance by 1) the advisor and then 2) the Office of Academic Appointments and Internships. If changes to tenure dates reduce the number of months the fellow is on residence the stipend will be prorated.
$4,500 per month
Stipends are prorated according to a Fellow’s exact length of tenure.
A travel Allowance, exclusively for a Fellow’s one-time relocation cost (average cost of a round trip coach seat on a train or airplane at the time of tenure) from his/her home to the Smithsonian, may also be provided. If a Fellow elects to split the appointment into multiple trips, he/she will be responsible for covering the additional travel costs.
A Research Allowance of up to $2,000 may be available for the artist to purchase research equipment or materials necessary for the Fellowship. Any travel related specifically to a Fellow’s research (e.g., non-local travel from one Smithsonian location to another to conduct research) falls into the category of research.
SARF Fellows are expected to spend their Fellowships in residence at the Smithsonian conducting research with Smithsonian staff and using Smithsonian resources following a project schedule agreed to by the Smithsonian advisor(s).
Smithsonian Artist Research Fellows must secure their own housing. Successful Fellows coming to DC and searching for housing should use extreme caution when sending money to a third party for housing deposits.
The SARF committee selects a limited number of applications to be awarded for fellowships based on the following criteria:
Outstanding quality of artwork based on technical finesse and conceptual sophistication.
Well-established or promising exhibition record that shows progress beyond home region.
Evidence of independence and flexibility.
Proposal listed in the application is:
Makes a strong case for research projects that require Smithsonian-specific collections, resources, scholars or locations in order to succeed
Please Note: The Smithsonian is unable to provide applicants with individual feedback about their proposals
All details of the Fellowship (exact dates of tenure, the amount of the stipend and any allowances as well as how they are paid out, etc.) are specified in each award letter sent by the Office of Academic Appointments and Internships to selected candidates.
If you are seeking a nomination, you will need to find a Smithsonian research staff member in the Smithsonian Opportunities for Research and Study (SORS) whose research relates to the research you want to conduct at the Smithsonian. You need to reach out to the Smithsonian researcher and ask to be nominated.
As a nominator how many artists can I nominate?
Each nominator may nominate up to one (1) artist.
Can a group of artists who collaborate together apply for this fellowship?
Collaborative groups of artists with a single research proposal are encouraged to apply and have been awarded in the past. The group needs to find a Smithsonian research staff member in the Smithsonian Opportunities for Research and Study (SORS) whose research relates to the artistic group’s single research proposal. Like individual artists, the group needs to reach out to the Smithsonian researcher and secure a nomination in order to apply.
I have left several messages for a Smithsonian research staff member whose research relates to the research I want to conduct at the Smithsonian, but s/he hasn’t responded. What should I do?
If you have left at least two messages for a Smithsonian staff researcher and have not heard back, you should assume they are not able to nominate you. This can because the staff person is on leave or the collection you want to research is unavailable. You should try and find another staff person whose research relates to the research you want to conduct at the Smithsonian to nominate you. If there is no other staff members whose research relates to the research you want to conduct at the Smithsonian, then you should try securing a nomination the following year.
I have been unable to secure a nomination prior to the deadline. What are my options?
You should consider trying to secure a nomination the following year. Incomplete nominations sent after the deadline, and nominations with incorrect email addresses will not be accepted.
How many references do I need when filling out the SARF application in SOLAA?
You will need the name and email address of two individuals at least one of whom should be a professional art expert.
How do I ensure my references received the survey?
Once you enter both references into the application you must select the option to send the survey to the references (click Send Email). Applicants are responsible for tracking their two references and ensuring that the references submit by the application deadline.
Are SARF Fellows given studio space?
SARF fellowships are explicitly for artist research and do not require recipients to create or exhibit artwork. Consequently, studio space is not provided.
What if my research involves the use of live animals?
Please mark on your application that live animals will be involved in your research. If your proposal is accepted the committee and your advisor will determine the extent of your involvement with live animals and if specific training is required.
When providing specific art samples on my application, which format is best to use?
Any functioning URL that links to samples of your artwork is acceptable. There is no preferred URL.
Are SARF Fellows given housing?
Smithsonian Artist Research Fellows must secure their own housing. The point of the monthly stipend is to help defray living costs (housing, local transportation, food).
NOTE: Any Fellows coming to DC and searching for housing should use extreme caution when sending money to a third party for housing deposits.
How many SARF Fellows are selected each year?
There is no fixed number of Fellows selected each year as funding varies.
Who selects those awarded for SARF Fellowships?
Applications are reviewed and artists selected by members of the SARF Committee. The committee is composed of Smithsonian art curators and representatives from the Smithsonian science, culture and history communities.
If I am accepted for a SARF Fellowship when will I need to start the fellowship?
Awards are not official until each selected applicant receives an official award letter from the Smithsonian’s Office of Academic Appointments and Internships. This award letter lists all the details of each fellowships (e.g., exact dates of tenure, the amount of the stipend, any allowances, how the fellow will be paid, etc.)
If I am accepted I will need to break my tenure up into multiple visits to the Smithsonian. Does a travel allowance cover all my trips?
Tenure dates at the Smithsonian can be divided into multiple visits, but must total a period of one to two months. Specifics of the tenure are reflected in each fellow’s award letter. If a travel allowance is included in the award, it pays for only one relocation trip from the awardee’s home to the Smithsonian location where they will do research. If tenure will be broken up into multiple visits, the fellow will have to pay for additional trips to and from the Smithsonian tenure location.
I was not selected for a SARF Fellowship. Can I get feedback on why I was not selected?
The Smithsonian is unable to provide SARF applicants with individual feedback about their proposals.
The Smithsonian Fellowship Program does not discriminate on grounds of race, creed, sex, age, marital status, condition of handicap, or national origin of any applicant.
No employee or contractor of the Smithsonian Institution may hold a Smithsonian fellowship during the time of his/her employment or contract, nor may an award be offered to any person who has been employed by or under contract to the Institution in the previous year, without the prior approval of the Office of Fellowships.