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Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (SARF)

An Innovative Research-Based Artist Residency Program


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 study 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.

There is no fixed number of Fellows selected each year as funding varies.

See former Smithsonian Artist Research Fellows at the end of this page.




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. Towards the end of the tenure SARF fellows present public lectures or informal seminars on their research. They are also asked to provide a written evaluation of their SARF experience.  

How It Works:

2016 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (SARF) program


September 8, 2015: Application opens

December 1, 2015:  Application deadline

December 31, 2015: Those not selected for the next round review will be notified.  Those selected for the next round will receive detailed instructions including deadlines for the second round.

May 31, 2016: Second round applicants will be notified of committee’s final decision.

Stipends and Allowances

Stipends are $3,000 per month and are prorated according to a Fellow’s exact length of tenure. As SARF Fellowships range from one to two months, stipends are between $3000 and $6000.

In addition, a travel allowance, exclusively for a Fellow’s one-time relocation cost 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., travelling from one Smithsonian location to another to conduct research) falls into the category of research.

The exact dates of tenure, the amount of the stipend and any allowances as well as how they are paid out are specified in each award letter provided to successful candidates.

Tenure Dates

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. Any changes to tenure dates must be approved in advance by 1) the advisor and then 2) the Office of Fellowships and Internships. If changes to tenure dates reduce the number of months the fellow is on residence the stipend will be prorated.

Fellowships must be completed by September 30th of the year following the date on the official award letter.  This allows fellows approximately 16 months to complete their Fellowship.

Conditions of Appointment

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.


Camille Henrot, Grosse Fatigue (still), 2013


  • Outstanding visual artists
  • Strong exhibition history beyond the home region
  • Demonstrated record of accomplishment
  • Previous experience with public projects or commissions is encouraged but not required
  • Ability to create a strong research proposal that utilizes Smithsonian specific resources
  • Ability to independently secure 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

Who is Ineligible?

  • Undergraduate students and MFA candidates
  • Smithsonian employee or contractors if the Fellowship would coincide with their employment
  • Any person who has been employed or under contract with the Smithsonian in the previous year unless he/she is given approval from the Office of Fellowships and Internships


How to Apply: 

There are two application rounds. The first round begins by Applying via SOLAA  (link will be activated when cycle opens)

Incomplete applications will not be considered

Applications not received by the deadline will not be considered

Each member in a collaborative team must complete and submit his/her own application and resume/CV. The research proposal should be the same for each team member.

Applications not received through SOLAA will not be considered (please contact the Office of Fellowships and Internships if you are unable to meet this requirement)   



Round 1 Application Requirements

1. Basic Information

In SOLAA, you will enter basic personal information that is collected for all applicants to Smithsonian Programs.

2. References

Two references are required.

In SOLAA, you will be prompted to enter the references’ names and email addresses. The references will receive an email notification and can then submit their recommendation and letter through SOLAA.

Please note:

Do not list Smithsonian staff members as references

Applicants have the ability to check the status of their references in SOLAA and should do so regularly

It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that references are submitted by the application deadline

All reference letters are considered confidential unless confidentiality has been specifically waived by the person giving the reference

3. Curriculum vitae or Résumé

Include a current CV or résumé (not to exceed two pages)

4. Examples of Work

The Smithsonian will only accept a single URL that links to all the work samples that are being submitted for review

  • Include a title, date, and media type on the linked site for each work submitted
  • If work was done in collaboration with others, indicate your specific contribution
  • No more than ten (10) work samples will be reviewed
  • For film/video: No more than three (3) films – Each film sample should not exceed 5 minutes in length

Please do not send original work, cds or dvds to the Smithsonian

Please do not attach your samples to an e-mail

5. Research Interests Document

Please provide your ideas for research based on Smithsonian collections.


First Round Selection Criteria:

Complete applications are reviewed by members of the SARF Committee. The committee is composed of Smithsonian art curators and representatives from the Smithsonian science, culture and history communities. The committee selects a limited number of applications to be considered for a second round review 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

Those selected to advance from the first round will receive detailed instructions for the next steps.

Second Round and Final Selection Criteria:

Second round applications are also reviewed by the SARF Committee.  The Committee makes final award recommendations to the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture (USHAC). USHAC makes the final decisions on awards. Final applications are reviewed on the following criteria:

  • Feasibility of proposal
  • Proposal innovation
  • Proposal makes a strong case for research projects that require Smithsonian-specific collections, resources, scholars or locations in order to succeed
  • Evidence of independence and flexibility


Unsuccessful Proposals

The Smithsonian is unable to provide applicants with individual feedback about their proposals.


Previous Smithsonian Artist Research Fellows:



  • Gina Adams
  • Lauren Alexander
  • Erika Blumenfeld
  • Paco Cao
  • Chris Chong
  • Guy Michael Davis
  • Blane De St. Croix
  • Ghalia Elsrakbi
  • Ian Garrett
  • Sara Greenberger Rafferty
  • Milumbe Haimbe
  • Kiluanji Henda
  • Ato Malinda
  • Marcus Neustetter
  • Katie Parker
  • Yann Seznec



  • Vivian Beer
  • Annet Couwenberg
  • Kenneth Robert Gonzales-Day
  • Lamont Hamilton
  • Muriel Hasbun
  • Shana Lutker
  • Esperanza Mayobre
  • Edward Morris
  • Kenjiro Okazaki
  • Amy O’Neill
  • Damian Ortega
  • Jaime Permuth
  • Susannah Sayler
  • Christina Seely
  • Praneet Soi



  • Suzanne Hitt Bocanegra
  • Julia Brown
  • Evaristus Chukweumeka Obodo
  • Walmor Correa
  • Cameron Gainer
  • Peter Garfield
  • Shan D. Goshorn
  • Anawana Haloba
  • Susan Lawty
  • Beth Lipman
  • Aime Mpane Enkobo
  • Hossein Valamanesh
  • Jin-me A. Yoon



  • Richard Barnes
  • Lia Cook
  • Lillian Cox-Richard
  • Christine Dixie
  • Simryn Gill
  • Camille Henrot
  • Michael Joo
  • Irene Kopelman
  • Tristin Lowe
  • Steven Montgomery
  • Herve Ngamago-Youmbi
  • Kim Schoenstadt
  • Chico Togni
  • Penelope Umbrico
  • Mark Zirpel



  • Tauba Auerbach
  • Willem Boshoff
  • Halsey Burgund
  • Richard Chartier
  • Kate Davis
  • Joseph Grigley
  • Avish Khebrehzadeh
  • Trevor Paglen
  • James Peel
  • Elaine Reichek
  • Dario Robleto
  • Mary Sibande
  • Elizabeth Turk
  • Marie Watt



  • Carlos Amorales
  • Joann Brennan
  • Jocelyn Chateauvert
  • Sonya Clark
  • Mary Evans
  • Joseph Gerhardt
  • Emmet Gowin
  • Tracy Hicks
  • Ruth Jarman
  • Richard Pell
  • Clive Van den Berg



  • Kader Attia
  • Peter Coffin
  • Jamal Cyrus
  • Nancy Friedman-Sanchez
  • Brian Jungen
  • Candace Lin
  • Linn Meyers
  • Henrique Oliveira
  • Morgan Puett
  • Alison Taylor



  • Rachel Berwick
  • Abraham Cruz Villegas
  • Samuel Durant
  • Elizabeth Huey
  • Runa Islam
  • Marcia Kure
  • Rodney McMillian
  • Maggie Michael
  • Douglas Ross
  • Elaine Reichek
  • Dan Steinhilber



  • Ghada Amer
  • Sandow Birk
  • Bjorn Dahlem
  • Terence Gower
  • Shih-Chieh Huang
  • Nene Humphrey
  • Sergio Palleroni
  • Tim Rollins
  • Sue Williamson