Awards and Honors, Faculty News

Bennington Faculty and Alumni Awarded Guggenheim Fellowships

Faculty member J Blackwell ’95, Bennington Writing Seminars faculty member Jenny Boully, past BWS commencement speaker Garth Greenwell, and Helen Mirra '91 are recipients of the prestigious 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship.

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Awards were given this year to a diverse group of 175 Fellows comprising writers, scholars, artists, and scientists. Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, the successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Foundation’s 96th competition.

J Blackwell, awarded a Fine Arts Fellowship, is an artist and teacher originally from Louisiana. J's works are called Neveruses (never·uses). Neveruses are hybrid painting-objects composed of recovered plastic bags and colored fibers such as wool yarn, silk thread, and patterned cloth. In exhibitions and performances, Neveruses invert painting conventions by thwarting the traditional protocols of form, use, and meaning. Their work has been exhibited in venues such as the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, the Mackintosh Museum at the Glasgow School of Art, the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans and MoMA PS1 in New York as well as in solo exhibitions at galleries in New York, London, Los Angeles, and Paris. Their work was also included in Vitamin T: Threads + Textiles in Contemporary Art, published by Phaidon Press in 2019. Honors include a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and fellowships from the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, ZKU Berlin, Santa Fe Art Institute, the Delfina Studio Trust in London, and the Corporation of Yaddo. J is represented by Kate MacGarry, London

Jenny Boully, awarded a General Nonfiction Fellowship, is a ลูกครึ่ง (half-child) who was born in Korat, Thailand and grew up on the southwest side of San Antonio, Texas, nestled between Air Force Bases for which her father served. She is the author of Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing Life, which the Georgia Review calls “a supple and suggestive volume, one dedicated to multiplying literary possibilities even as it names and forcefully critiques the economic and institutional forces that construct and constrain such possibility.” Her first book The Body: An Essay, published when she was 25, is regarded as a canonical text in experimental essays, poetic prose, and imaginative form. Her other books include not merely because of the unknown that was stalking toward themThe Book of Beginnings and Endings: Essays[one love affair]*, and of the mismatched teacups, of the single-serving spoon: a book of failures. In addition to a Ph.D. in English from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, she holds an MFA from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in English Writing and Criticism from Hollins University, where she also double-majored in English and Philosophy. She is a disciple of Ajarn Noo Kanpai.

Garth Greenwell, awarded a Fiction Fellowship, is the author of What Belongs to You, which won the British Book Award for Debut of the Year, was longlisted for the National Book Award, and was a finalist for six other awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It was named a Best Book of 2016 by over fifty publications in nine countries, and is being translated into thirteen languages. His second book of fiction, Cleanness, was published in January 2020, and was an Indie Next selection and a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice. His fiction has appeared in The New YorkerThe Paris Review, and A Public Space, and he has written nonfiction for The New Yorker, the London Review of Books, and Harper's, among others. He has taught at New York University; the University of Mississippi, where he was the John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence; and Grinnell College. He lives in Iowa City, and is currently a Visiting Professor at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. 

Helen Mirra '91 is currently attendant in perception and proprioception while weaving and walking. Walking is mostly in the foothills of Mount Tamalpais, usually as a circumambulation of its three small peaks. The weaving is reciprocal with the walking. Standing with a small tapestry loom on an easel, with flexible parameters set by chance operations, the weaving provides a structure for movement through alternately extended arms. It is the playing of an instrument that doesn't make much sound, bringing about a material indication of a physical activity. Using the loom in a simple manner, not to its limits. Meeting it in a slow conversation, or non-conversation, that takes place in listening rather than in language. This not-one, not-two circumstance is evidenced mostly in linen, without a surfeit of color. The resulting pieces – proofs – are near nothingness, whether as a distillation of sorts, or an amplification of less.

The great variety of backgrounds, fields of study, and accomplishments of Guggenheim Fellows is one of the unique characteristics of the Fellowship program. In all, 53 scholarly disciplines and artistic fields, 78 different academic institutions, 31 states and the District of Columbia, and 2 Canadian provinces are represented in this year’s class of Fellows,.

“It’s exceptionally satisfying to name 175 new Guggenheim Fellows,” Edward Hirsch, president of the Foundation, said. “These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best. Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”

Since its establishment in 1925, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has granted more than $375 million in Fellowships to over 18,000 individuals, among whom are scores of Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, poets laureate, members of the national academies, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Turing Award, Bancroft Prize, National Book Award, and many other internationally recognized honors.

For more information on the Fellows and their projects, please visit the Foundation’s website.

Guggenheim Fellowships by Bennington Alumni and/or Faculty Members:

2019: Carmen Giménez Smith, former faculty; Karen Hartman, former faculty; Christopher Merrill, former MFA faculty; Sam Pluta, former faculty

2018: Amy Gerstler MFA '00

2017: Fiona Maazel MFA ’02; Elana Herzog '76; Jen Liu, faculty; Melinda Ring MFA '01

2014: Claire Vaye Watkins, former MFA faculty; Pier Consagra, former visiting artist

2013: J. C. Hallman, former MFA faculty; Major Jackson, former MFA faculty; Ann Pibal, faculty; Carlin Romano, former faculty; Cora Cohen '64; Anne Waldman '66; Carrie Moyer '82; Terese Svoboda, former faculty 

2012: Lia Purpura, former MFA visiting writer; Benjamin Taylor, former faculty 

2011: Patricia Volk, former MFA faculty; Jonathan Haynes, former faculty; DD Dorvillier '89

2010: Mary Lum, faculty; Peter Trachtenberg, MFA faculty; Marta Ptaszyńska, former faculty; Sarah Stanbury '71

2009: Ralph Lemon, former faculty 

2008: Michael Burkard, former MFA faculty; Ann Goldstein '71; Laurie R. Godfrey '67; Myrna Packer '74; Reginald Shepherd ’88; Martha Graham, former faculty 

2007: Maria Flook, former MFA faculty 

2006: Yoko Inoue, faculty; Douglas G. Biow '79

2005: Mark Slouka, former MFA faculty; Henri Cole, former faculty 

2003: April Bernard, MFA faculty 

2002: Mary L. Ruefle '74, former faculty; Nicholas Brooke, faculty; Ralph Lee, former faculty

2001: Brian Morton, former MFA faculty; George Packer, former MFA faculty 

2000: Amy Hempel, MFA faculty; Milford Graves, former faculty

1999: Bernard Cooper, former MFA faculty; Susan Rethorst '74

1998: David Gates, current MFA faculty; Ain Gordon, former faculty; Barbara Bloom '72; Kenji Fujita ’78; Judith Butler '78

1995: Eve Sussman '84

1994: Sven Birkerts, MFA faculty; Kevin E. Bubriski MFA ’97; Sidney Tillim, former faculty; Andrew Spence, former faculty 

1993: Kathleen Norris ’69

1991: David M. Brody ’81

1990: Lynn Freed, former MFA faculty; Dr. Bonnie Costello '72

1989: Pamela Avril Tucker MA ’80

1988: David Gates, MFA faculty; Phillip Lopate, former MFA faculty; Gretel Ehrlich '67

1987: David Gordon, former faculty; Alec J. Wilkinson '74; Liz Phillips '73; Sally Mann '71

1985: Liam Rector, former Director of Bennington Writing Seminars and faculty; Brower Hatcher, former faculty; Arturo Vivante, former faculty; Deirdre Bair, former faculty 

1984: Susan Cheever, MFA faculty; Lynne Sharon Schwartz, MFA faculty

1983: Cynthia Lee Macdonald '50

1982: Laura Furman '68

1981: Sara Rudner MFA ’99

1980: Mary Oliver, former faculty 

1980: Vivian Fine, former faculty 

1978: Elizabeth Swados '73

1977: Kathryn Posin ’65; Joan Tower '61; Barbara Herrnstein Smith, former faculty 

1975: Edward Hoagland, former MFA faculty; Pril Smiley’65

1974: Jill Hoffman '59

1972: Donald Hall, former MFA faculty

1970: Patricia Johanson '62; Eugene Goossens, former faculty 

1969: Stanley Edgar Hyman, former faculty 

1968: Howard Nemerov, former faculty 

1967: Alwin Nikolais '40

1964: Edward Hoagland, former MFA faculty 

1963: Donald Hall, former MFA faculty

1959: Helen F. Codere, former faculty 

1946: Henry Brant, former faculty 

1945: Ben Belitt, former faculty 

1942: W. H. Auden, former faculty

1937: Robert G. McBride, former faculty 

1935: Kenneth Burke, former faculty 

1928: Léonie Adams, former faculty