Smithsonian's Archives of American Art Announces Winner of 2013 Graduate Research Essay Prize

By the Archives
September 19, 2013

Katherine Jentleson, a doctoral candidate in art history at Duke University, was awarded the Archives of American Art Graduate Research Essay Prize funded by the Dedalus Foundation Inc. In its second year, this prize recognizes authors who advance the understanding of American art history by using the resources of the Archives of American Art as primary evidence. It also promotes scholarship that lends itself to innovative online presentations. The annual competition is open to anyone enrolled in a graduate program in art history, visual culture, American studies or related fields.

In her award-winning essay, “‘Not as rewarding as the North’: Holger Cahill’s Southern Folk Art Expedition,” Jentleson consulted two significant collections held at the Archives, both of which are available through the Terra Foundation Center for Digital Collections: Holger Cahill Papers and the Downtown Gallery Records.

Jentleson examined a little-known trip taken by Holger Cahill, an art writer and critic who was the founding director of the New Deal’s Federal Art Project. She traces his two-week collecting tour through the American South in early 1935, and explains that this excursion shaped Cahill’s distinct definition of “Americanness.” Jentleson argues that his low impression of artistic and cultural production in the South greatly influenced his term as FAP administrator. The jury determined that she skillfully marshaled evidence, including reports, correspondence, interviews, press releases and printed materials, in a smart, engaging essay and developed a layered, multimedia map that relies on open-source software.

“Katherine Jentleson’s work is timely and exciting, and it suggests important future directions for the field,” said Kate Haw, director of the Archives. “She follows in the tradition of venerable scholars who have mined our rich primary sources to produce top-notch, rigorous art history. She examined materials available through the Archives’ website while also demonstrating the creative potential of online publishing with an interactive map. We are deeply grateful to the Dedalus Foundation for their support of this prize, which encourages and celebrates promising scholarship.”

Jentleson will receive a cash prize of $1,000, publication of her essay on the Archives of American Art’s website and a one-year subscription to the Archives of American Art Journal.

The jury included Jennifer Greenhill, associate professor of art history in the School of Art and Design at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Robin Veder, associate professor of art history and visual culture and humanities at Penn State Harrisburg, and Kelly Quinn, Archives’ Terra Foundation Project Manager for Online Scholarly and Educational Initiatives.

The Archives of American Art is the world’s pre-eminent resource dedicated to collecting and preserving the papers and primary records of the visual arts in America.

Founded in 1981 by the artist Robert Motherwell (1915-1991), the Dedalus Foundation educates the public by fostering public understanding of modern art and modernism through its support of research, education, publications and exhibitions in this field. For more information visit the foundation’s website at

Media only: Kelly Quinn, 202-633-7972;