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Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (SARF)

UPDATE: Please check back in early October 2022 for program updates.

Artists who had deferred nominations from 2021 will also be eligible to apply in 2023.


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:

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 Fellowships and Internships to selected candidates.

Nomination Requirement  

To be considered for this fellowship, artists need to be nominated and the information send it to by the deadline by October 15, 2021. Each nominator may nominate up to two (2) artists.

The email should be sent to from the nominator and include the following information: Name and affiliation of the nominator and the name and email address of the artist(s) they are nominating.

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 email the information to 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.  


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

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.

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