The VMFA Visual Arts Fellowship Program Has Supported Virginia’s Artists and Art Historians Since 1940  

Danya Smith

Danya Smith (Midlothian) – Sculpture
I can do it too (you got it dude), 2013
Fabric and mixed materials
60x48x48 in.

Need help with your art school tuition? How about some cash for art supplies? Over the past 74 years, the VMFA Visual Arts Fellowship program has awarded more than $4.6 million to help more than 1,100 professional artists, art students, and art historians in Virginia realize their educational and career goals.

“This Fellowship is really great confirmation that I am moving in the right direction and that I have made progress” said Danya Smith, a 2014 undergraduate Fellowship recipient. Danya will be using her award to buy materials for her sculptures.

Supporting the work of Virginia’s artists

Established in 1940 through an endowment by the late John Lee Pratt of Fredericksburg, Virginia, the program serves a different purpose for each recipient. Undergrad and graduate students often use this valuable monetary award to offset the financial burden of pursuing their educational or creative goals, while professional artists use the dollars to invest to invest in their careers.

Although VMFA receives hundreds of applications, we award only about 30 Fellowships per fiscal year. And winners are chosen anonymously by outside jurors. Receiving a Visual Arts Fellowship is a huge accomplishment and a true reflection of the merit of an artist’s work.

Part of a distinguished club

Recipients benefit not only from the monetary award, but also from the recognition, with past recipients going on to great professional success. Some examples are 1987 Fellowship recipient Vince Gilligan, who is the creator, writer, producer, and director of the Emmy-winning series Breaking Bad. Another notable artist Cy Twombly received two awards in the 1950s, using the funds to study in Europe. You can view Twombly’s painting Synopsis of a Battle in the VMFA Lewis Contemporary Galleries.

You’ll find works by more recent Fellowship recipients throughout the museum’s permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. Wave, by Heide Trepanier, who won three Fellowships between 1999 and 2009, and Direct Object 14 by 2010 winner Jon-Phillip Sheridan are in VMFA’s 21st Century Galleries. VMFA also showcases the works of current and recent Fellowship recipients in Amuse Restaurant, the VMFA Pauley Center, and the Richmond International Airport.

Find out more!

Fellowships are available to all visual art disciplines, including crafts, drawing, film/video, mixed media, new/emerging media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and art history (graduate students only). Monetary awards are $4,000 for undergraduate students, $6,000 for graduate students (including art history), and $8,000 for professional artists. The deadline to apply is Friday, November 7, 2014 (no application fee). Learn more about this valuable program on our website or contact VMFA Fellowship Program Coordinator, Jenny Harding, at