What Is a Guggenheim Fellowship?

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  • Written By: Elise Czajkowski
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2019
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A Guggenheim Fellowship is a grant given to a professional scholar or artist by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The award was established by Simon Guggenheim and his wife in 1925, in memory of their son. Originally, only citizens of the United States were eligible for the fellowship, though requirements have changed many times since then. The purpose of the grant is to allow a working artist or scholar more freedom to work creatively for a period of time. The amount of money granted in each fellowship varies.

A Guggenheim Fellowship can last from six to 12 months, with no conditions attached to the money. The grants are given to advanced professionals, who are defined as people who have a "significant record" of work in their field. Students are not eligible.

The grants are given to people who create their own work. Individuals in the performing arts, that is, those who interpret the work of others rather than create new work, are not eligible. For instance, a choreographer is eligible but a dancer is not. Along with artistic endeavors, fellowships are awarded in natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

There are two categories of Guggenheim Fellowship. One is awarded to individuals from the United States and Canada, the other to those from Latin America and the Caribbean. Fellowships are awarded annually. Once a person has been granted a Guggenheim Fellowship, he or she may not apply for another one.


An applicant for a Guggenheim Fellowship is required to submit many materials. This includes references, a CV or resume, and examples of their work. The foundation receives 3,500 to 4,000 applications per year, and generally awards about 220. Anyone may apply, and all applications are reviewed for consideration. A person must apply to be eligible for a Guggenheim Fellowship, and none are awarded to non-applicants.

According the Guggenheim Foundation, the applications are classified by field. Experts in that field, all former Guggenheim fellows, are asked to judge all of that field's applicants. These experts make a recommendation to a committee, which decides how many awards to give in each area and to whom. The board of trustees for the Guggenheim Foundation has final approval of the awards.


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