April 2022 – Rebecca Soderholm, arts and sciences associate dean of curriculum and associate professor of art at Drew University, has been named a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
The prestigious fellowship received nearly 2,500 applications and was awarded to 180 scientists, writers, scholars, and artists representing 51 disciplines.
“It’s an incredible honor to be in the company of artists and scholars, past and present, who have received a fellowship,” said Soderholm. “The Guggenheim has played a critical and storied role in American photography. Biographies of the photographers whose pictures have inspired and influenced so many of us, such as Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank, note the Fellowship as having been a turning point that allowed them to take important risks with their work. There are also recipients whose work has been lost to history and I feel keenly aware that what one does with this gift is more important than the notoriety in receiving it.”
The fellowship includes funding to support applicants’ work. In Soderholm’s case, that work is her current project, “Hare Scramble,” a collection of photographs of off-road motorcycle and ATV races, which was featured in The New York Times last year.
“To do meaningful work, artists, writers and scholars sometimes need to trust their intuition,” said Soderholm. “For me, this has meant following this crazy notion that pictures of motorcycle and ATV races could communicate something meaningful, both about the subject and about this moment in American history. That idea has resulted in seven years of following off-road racing, spending wonderful days outside and getting to know people with skills, grit, and humor who have welcomed me into their world. It has also included long hours on the road, sleeping in my station wagon, hot sun and cold rain, dust, mud, debt, and missing my daughter’s birthday party.”
“When one is compelled beyond reason to follow an idea, there are moments when you think, What, exactly, am I doing and how can I continue to justify this?” she added. “Breakthroughs in the work propel you forward—and that’s what really matters—but I suspect that the recognition and support of a fellowship will help to put some of those questions to rest.
For Soderholm, this recognition is an example to her students of the possibilities of putting your work into the real world.
“In Professional Practice, the capstone in the art department, we require students to apply for real-world opportunities such as grants, exhibitions, and residencies. We tell them that sometimes the opportunities that artists apply to are extremely competitive, but that’s okay, because the process helps us develop our materials, clarify our intentions, and put our work in front of influential people.”
“In fall 2021 when my students in Professional Practice were working on their own artist statements and applications, I shared some of my Guggenheim materials with the students for feedback. Maybe they learned that sometimes, despite very long odds, you actually win, and also that we all need a pit crew.”
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