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Tyson Think Tank

Tyson Think Tank 2024: A Short-Term Fellowship

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Tyson Scholars Program are pleased to announce the continuation of the Tyson Think Tank, a short-term fellowship opportunity for scholars of American art. This year’s program will take place August 5-23, 2024 and will take as its point of departure the world of nineteenth-century sculptor Edmonia Lewis (ca. 1844-1907).

2024 Topic: Edmonia Lewis and the Expanding Field of American Sculpture

Edmonia Lewis broke international, racial, and gender barriers when she traveled to Rome in 1866 to join the leading American sculptors of her generation. The exceptional story of her career and her success as an African American and Indigenous (Mississauga) female sculptor intrigued supporters and complicated critical reception during her lifetime and up to the present day.

This Think Tank, like an upcoming nationally touring exhibition in 2026-2027, considers Lewis’s oeuvre alongside artists and pressing concerns of her time, and seeks to shed new light on her techniques, networks, cultural impact, and enduring legacy. The Think Tank is led by exhibition co-curators Dr. Shawnya L. Harris, the Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson curator of African American and African Diasporic Art at the Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, and Dr. Jeffrey Richmond-Moll, the George Putnam Curator of American Art at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Lewis’ sculpture group The Old Arrow Maker in the Crystal Bridges permanent collection is one of several by Lewis that reference Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s popular epic poem The Song of Hiawatha. Another, Hiawatha’s Marriage, sold in January 2024 for a record sum at auction, signaling the rising public interest in Lewis’s art. For this Think Tank, The Old Arrow Maker offers an exciting opportunity to investigate Lewis’s body of work firsthand and to consider how the artist’s personal Mississauga/Ojibwe identity also informed her engagement with Indigenous American culture more broadly. Like other Longfellow-inspired sculptures, The Old Arrow Maker opens the broader themes at the heart of Lewis’s work, such as race, Indigeneity, gender, religion, self-fashioning, patronage, and expatriatism.

Edmonia Lewis, The Old Arrow Maker
Edmonia Lewis, The Old Arrow Maker, modeled 1866, carved ca. 1872, marble, 20 x 14 x 14 in. (50.8 x 35.6 x 35.6 cm). Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2008.15

Scholars participating in the Think Tank will address the above themes, as well as topics such as:

  • Black and Indigenous art in the long nineteenth century
  • Prevailing themes portrayed in Lewis’s work, such as:
    • visual commentaries on enslavement and abolition
    • intersections of art and popular literature
    • engagement with religion and sentimentality
    • exploration of Lewis’s Mississauga/Ojibwe identity
  • The skills and techniques of nineteenth-century sculpture
  • Systems of patronage—whether for nineteenth-century American artists abroad, or among US abolitionists—and relationships between tourism and art-making
  • Artworks by Lewis’s contemporaries, such as neoclassical sculptors William Wetmore Story and Hiram Powers, and historical African American artists Robert Seldon Duncanson and Henry Ossawa Tanner, and twentieth and twenty-first-century artists that suggest Lewis’s impact on later generations.
  • The challenges of writing histories of American art with lost or missing archives

Format

Crystal Bridges invites applications for three Fellows at varying stages of their careers. Each Fellow will focus their investigation on a single work of art, as part of their ongoing research in a collection close to home, or by selecting an artwork from the Crystal Bridges collection for sustained study. Scholars are encouraged to expand upon existing scholarship on Lewis, as her work also relates to the broader history of American sculpture and African American and Indigenous art, using the Tyson Think Tank as a testing ground to develop new research.

While in residence, Fellows will conduct individual research and writing, participate in collective and individual discussions, and engage in close-looking exercises with artworks in the Crystal Bridges collection. The seminar-style Think Tank will also feature guest speakers and scholars from Crystal Bridges and the University of Arkansas, as well as leading national scholars, via in-person and virtual conversations and will include excursions to important collections of African American and Native American art in the region, such as the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, OK and the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City, OK. Outcomes from the Tyson Think Tank may inform the exhibition project on Edmonia Lewis, but the fellowship is intended to invigorate the research and scholarship of individual Fellows through their work with a cohort of scholars focused on a shared topic.

Residency and Stipend

The Fellows will be in residence at Crystal Bridges for three weeks, August 5-23.

Each Fellow receives a $3,600 stipend ($1,200 per week), $600 travel/relocation grant, and residency in Crystal Bridges’ scholars housing.

Application Process

Applicants should identify one object as the focus of their intended research. Proposals considering the history of sculpture, including sculpture and technical art history, and projects that specifically address Lewis’s oeuvre are especially encouraged. We also encourage proposals that examine intersectional topics on race and identity, including the potential themes and questions listed above.

We welcome applications from academic and museum professionals from a range of disciplines including but not limited to art history, African American studies, visual and material culture, American studies, women and gender studies, religious studies, craft, and Indigenous art. Applications will be evaluated on the originality and quality of the proposed research and its potential to contribute to more equitable, inclusive, and critically engaged histories of American art.

The short (500-word) proposal should outline what the Fellow hopes to accomplish in three weeks, considering the location of the Fellowship at Crystal Bridges and in Northwest Arkansas, including resources available at the University of Arkansas; the short focused amount of time; and the community of scholars, especially Dr. Harris and Dr. Richmond-Moll.

Please submit the following in applications by 11pm CST on April 2, 2024.

  • 500-word proposal
  • One letter of recommendation
  • Curriculum Vitae (not more than 10 pages)

Submit Application

Fellows will be notified by April 15th, 2024 on their acceptance. The fellowship begins, in person, in Bentonville, Arkansas on August 5.

Please direct any questions regarding the Tyson Think Tank or your application to TysonScholars@crystalbridges.org.