Skip to main content

Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (SARF)

Nomination Deadline: November 7, 2022


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.

Nomination Requirement  

To be considered for this fellowship, artists need to be nominated and the information submitted by the nominator by the deadline, November 7, 2022. Each nominator may nominate one (1) artist.

Artists seeking nomination:

  • Consider the research you want to conduct at the Smithsonian.
  • 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.
  • 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 November 7, 2022, instructions and guidelines for the application process will be emailed to the nominees within a few days. Applications will be due Monday, January 16, 2023, at 11:59 PM EST. Notifications will go out in April 2023.


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, 2023 and May 31, 2024.

Any changes to tenure dates must be approved in advance by 1) the advisor and then 2) the Office of Fellowships. 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.

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.

Selection Criteria:

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:
    • Innovative
    • Feasible
    • 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

Award Letters

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.

List of Past Recipients


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.

Back to Top