Two Cornell professors and three alumni won competitive Guggenheim fellowships this year for work in a diverse range of fields including music theory, history and anthropology.
The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awards around 175 fellowships per year, of varying amounts, to individuals who have “demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts,” according to the foundation’s website.
Among this year’s winners is Prof. David Yearsley, music, who hopes to use the fellowship and accompanying funds to work on his book, tentatively titled Bach Laughs, which explores the humorous side of composer Johann Sebastian Bach.
“Every year there are so many outstanding applications for this fellowship that I feel honored — and extremely lucky — to have received one,” Yearsley told the Sun via email.
Prof. Paul Friedland, history, will combine his recently-won fellowship with a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies to work on his book project, A World Without Race: The Dream of a Universal Republic in the Revolutionary French Caribbean, 1794-1802.
In a phone call with the Sun, Friedland said he has no set timeline for finishing the book, but plans to work on it while he continues to teach at Cornell. After the project is finished, he hopes to teach a new undergraduate course on race and the Caribbean.
Sienna Craig Ph.D. ’06 highlighted the impact that Cornell had on her upcoming book project, The Ends of Kinship, Care and Belonging between Nepal and New York City, which consists of a literary ethnography and short stories that discuss immigration between Nepal and New York.
“A major part of why I chose Cornell for graduate school was that it has been a leading institution in terms of Nepal and Himalayan studies for decades,” Craig told the Sun. She cited Ithaca’s Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies, site of the 14th Dalai Lama’s Library and Museum, as an important cultural connection.
According to Craig, the fellowship will give her room to work on the project while retaining her position as an associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College.
“More than anything else, the Guggenheim fellowship [is] a gift of time and a validation of the importance of this type of creative scholarship,” Craig said.
Tonia Ko, MFA ’15, DMA ’17, is a composer and visual artist whose work has been played in Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. She is currently a resident at the McDowell Colony, a community space and incubator for artistic expression.
Ko said that she was surprised by the news, calling it “a tremendous honor to receive, particularly towards the beginning of one’s career,” in an email to the Sun.
Ko noted the freedom afforded by the Guggenheim’s grant as compared to grants and awards she has received from the Fromm Foundation, Chamber Music America, the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Broadcast Music, Inc.
“The grants I have received in the past have been specific to music and used to commission a particular piece,” Ko said. “The Guggenheim is unique because it recognizes so many different fields and there are no limitations to how I spend my fellowship year.”
Sabine Hyland ’86, the final alum recipient, is an anthropologist who helped discover the use of 3-D colored cords known as “khipus” for communication in Inca culture. Hyland is currently filming a project in the Andes and could not respond to a request for comment.
This year’s awarding of five alumni and faculty is an increase compared to last year, when two faculty members — Prof. Edward Baptist, history, and Assistant Prof. Ichion Hutchinson, English — were named Guggenheim fellows.