The Emerging Scholars Program
In addition to creating a viable organization with long-term prospects, Dewey Lee Curtis and the early members of the Board of Governors were also keen to introduce opportunities for students and early-career professionals to benefit from the Trust’s support. A committee was established to ensure that this objective would stand as a central component of the mission through the joint effort of the board, members at large, curatorial colleagues, and outside institutions.
The initial component of the program was a scholarship for students to attend the Trust’s symposia. To this day, the organization provides registration, accommodations, and a travel stipend to limit the financial burden on the recipients as much as possible. Named the Dewey Lee Curtis Symposium Scholarships, these awards are a fitting honor to the individual who worked tirelessly to ensure such opportunities were made available.
The board quickly realized that additional professional development programs were worthy of the Trust’s attention. Curators seek out these intensive and infinitely beneficial experiences but rarely have access to the funds necessary to participate. In 1991, with the encouragement of Governor Nancy Iliff, the Trust offered the first Continuing Education Scholarship to the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Art’s Summer Institute, starting a rotating sequence that also included the Attingham Summer School, Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Program, and Winterthur Institute. We now fund scholarships to each of these courses on annual basis.
Under the cultivation of directors Penny Hunt and Matt Thurlow and our last three Presidents, Bruce Perkins, Randy Schrimsher, and Chuck Akre, the Emerging Scholars Program has expanded exponentially since 2000. At the suggestion of Brock Jobe, Winterthur’s Professor of American Decorative Arts and a Trust Governor, we introduced the Summer Research Grant Program in 2003 to underwrite thesis and dissertation research. After the passing of long-time Governor and former Winterthur curator John A. H. Sweeney in 2006, the Trust endowed an Emerging Scholar Lecture in his name. Our Curatorial Internship Grant was introduced in 2009, once again at Brock’s encouragement after the economic recession caused a sharp downturn in the quantity of jobs available to recent graduates. This opportunity has become the crown jewel of the Emerging Scholars Program.
The three defining characteristics of the Emerging Scholars Program inextricably link this objective to the development of the Decorative Arts Trust: collaboration, advocacy, and grassroots support. The program is dependent upon collegial partnership with noteworthy museums, preservation organizations, and universities to educate and host our recipients. A series of past Officers and Governors of the Trust have advocated this cause, and without their leadership, the initiative would not have enjoyed such impressive progress. Under the stewardship of Education Committee Chair Robert Leath, the Program continues to make impressive strides forward. Finally, we are entirely dependent on the broad-based support of our membership to fund the Program. We have received 406 gifts so far this year to underwrite the Program’s 2017 budget, which, in turn, benefitted 53 students and young professionals.