The Guggenheim Fellowship: Awards for Artists at the Highest Career Level

The Guggenheim Fellowship likely needs no introduction. This award is one of the most prestigious forms of financial support available to artists. The fellowships are awarded through two annual competitions: one award cycle is reserved for permanent residents of the US and Canada, while the other is open to artists living in Latin America and The Caribbean.

According to the Foundation’s own statement:

Guggenheim Fellowships are intended for individuals who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.

“Exceptional” in this case may be an understatement. The Foundation reportedly receives 3,000 applications annually, while only awarding approximately 175 fellowships. That amounts to a funding percentage of roughly 5%, meaning the competition for these awards is incredible fierce. While the chances of actually receiving one of these awards is on the lower end, a successful application is awarded a generous amount, reportedly $45,000 on average.

Guggenheim Fellowship

Guggenheim Fellowship Winners

In addition to the incredible amount of these awards, winning a Guggenheim Fellowship places artists in fantastic company, with some of the most well known artists in history.

Some past and recent Guggenheim Fellowship recipients include:

Unlike some other such as those offer which do not allow artists to apply without first being nominated, The Guggenheim Foundation welcomes applications from all artists, with the only exception being they must reside within the US, Canada, Latin America, or The Caribbean.

Of course, because of the generous nature of the award, the application process is very complicated. Expect to spend many hours filling out online forms, prepping your work, and communicating with your references (yes, this grant requires letters of recommendation, in addition to an impressive body of work and long resume).

How Do I Win a Guggenheim Fellowship?

While it is always possible to win an award, the application process for The Guggenheim Fellowship is so time consuming, involved, and competitive, it is not recommended for emerging artists. The Fellowships are typically given to established, mid to late career artists with long resumes and hundreds of exhibitions to their name, or, to use the Foundation’s own words: “advanced professionals.”

When evaluating funding options like the Guggenheim, it is important to read between the lines of the selection criteria. Your time is a valuable resource, therefore, you should always look hard at past winners prior to diving into your application.

If you do this, you will see that the majority of Guggenheim Fellowship recipients have been full time college professors. These artists who have embedded themselves in academia are applying for Fellowships from an incredibly priveleged position. If you are not fortunate enough to have a full time teaching job with a large salary, benefits, and 3 month summer vacations, you are probably better off looking for other avenues to fund your practice.

Updated August 12, 2022

I wrote the original article in 2019. Following up on my observations, the Guggenheim Foundation recently released their class of 2022 fellows in visual arts and photography. A review of these grant recipients confirms my points from several years ago. Nearly every fellow holds, at minimum, an MFA (in 2022 there were 7 Guggenheim recipients who have MFAs from Yale!) and the vast majority are full time college professors. In the Guggenheim’s own press release, they say “almost 60 (out of 180 fellows) have no full-time college or university affiliation.” So, in othe words, over 2/3 or 67+% of all Guggenheim recipients are full-time college or university professors.

If you are still building your resume, consider applying to one of the more attainable grants prior to committing the time and resources to apply for a major award first. Guggenheim Foundation reviewers place heavy emphasis on your exhibition record and prior grants/awards you may have received. Artists in it for the long haul should be strategic about where they put their resources, and only apply to larger awards like the Guggenheim Fellowship after they have entered an advanced stage of their careers.


  • Possibly the most prestigious grants available
  • Generous amounts, upward of $30,000 or more
  • Winning one of these puts you in league with some of the most highly regarded artists in history


  • Complicated and time consuming applications
  • Heavy emphasis on academic resume
  • Often given to academics who already hold full time teaching positions – an inherent disadvantage to artists who do not have the privelege of a full time teaching job

Connect with Guggenheim Foundation

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Joan Mitchell Foundation Grants: Exciting Opportunities for Established Artists

The Joan Mitchell Foundation Grants have an ambitious purpose. According to the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s website, their mission is as follows:

The Joan Mitchell Foundation was established in 1993 to fulfill the ambitions of Joan Mitchell to aid and assist contemporary artists and to demonstrate that painting and sculpture are significant cultural necessities. To further this mandate, the Foundation supports visual artists through a range of grant programs.

Background on the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grants

The Joan Mitchell Foundation is the namesake of Joan Mitchell, an American “second generation” abstract expressionist painter and printmaker. She was a member of the American abstract expressionist movement, even though much of her career took place in France.

Joan Mitchell Foundation Grants
© Joan Mitchell Foundation

The Joan Mitchell Foundation is an opportunity all artists should be aware of. The Foundation’s grants are awarded in multiple sectors, including a section for Painters & Sculptors, Emerging Artists, Emergency Situations, and an MFA Grant option.

Grants are dispersed annually to artists who the Foundation feels deserves a higher degree of recognition and would benefit from financial support. Grants are generous and come in the amount of $25,000 in the Painters & Sculptors Grant Program.

In addition, The Joan Mitchell Foundation has implemented a $12,000 unrestricted grant award for emergency situations in a bid to reach a larger, more diverse range of recipients than their previous efforts which focused primarily on Education and MFA programs.

Past Winners of Joan Mitchell Foundation Grants

Past Joan Mitchell Foundation Grants have been given to both emerging artists and art stars alike, with a clear emphasis on creaties who have built a solid resume.

Some notable recipients include:

Of course, these grants sound outstanding, and who wouldn’t want to be on that list?

Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant Application Details

So how can an artist apply?

Therein lies the catch: these awards are by nomination only.

According to the Joan Mitchell Foundation website, grant winners are selected “through an intensive nomination and review process.” The nominators the foundation uses are industry experts, but their names are not publicized.

Unfortunately, this means the path to winning one of these awards is not entirely clear. While these are outstanding grants if you can get nominated, we do believe the closed process tends to overlook strong artistic talent that may not necessarily have the academic pedigree to garner attention from one of the Foundation’s nominators.

Your best approach to achieving this level of success is to begin by applying for grants which offer open applications that are aimed at emerging and mid career artists, such as The Harpo Foundation, Hopper Prize, and Working Artist Org.

Build your visibility and in time, you may receive a nomination if your work finds the right audience.


  • Generous grants up to $12,000
  • Impressive list of past recipients is a who’s who of successful artists
  • Primarily awarded to painters


  • Nomination only–no open applications
  • No transparency regarding how one can get nominated
  • Unfortunately, it’s not just about the quality of your work, your resume definitely plays a part here

Connect with Joan Mitchell Foundation Grants

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