Kansas City And Lawrence Artists Selected For Guggenheim Fellowships

Apr 7, 2017

Applicants are warned, as Inside Philanthropy puts it: "Don't even think about attempting to apply for this fellowship unless you are at the absolute top of your game."

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation on Friday morning announced the nearly 200 Guggenheim Fellowships — and two area artists are on the list: Kansas City poet Michelle Boisseau and Lawrence photographer Daniel Coburn.

Michelle Boisseau's university textbook, 'Writing Poems, is in its 8th edition.
Credit Longman Publishing Group

Michelle Boisseau, professor of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, literally wrote the book on poetry.

The textbook "Writing Poems" is in its 8th edition, co-authored with Hadara Bar-Nadav and Robert Wallace, and she's published five collections of poetry including her 2016 work, Among the Gorgons.

Boisseau teaches in UMKC's MFA program and also serves as senior editor of BkMk Press and a contributing editor to New Letters magazine. She's been awarded two fellowships in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts. 

"Poetry has a sacred duty to connect things that don't seem connected, to dig down and chart the subterranean rivers," Boisseau has said about her work. "It is a way of knowing, or trying to know."

Dream Field, from the 'Hereditary Estate' series
Credit Daniel Coburn / courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago

Daniel Coburn joined the department of design at the University of Kansas in Lawrence in 2013, and he's an assistant professor of photo media. 

In 2014, Coburn's photographs, from a decade-long series called "The Hereditary Estate," were published in a monograph. The images depict "friends and loved ones in parables of love, reverie, respect, and quiet tragedy" and address a dark family narrative.

Coburn has shown his work in solo and group exhibitions, and his prints are in private and public collections, such as the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College in Chicago and the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St. Joseph. 

The Guggenheim Fellowship is considered one of the most prestigious awards, and it recognizes "men and women who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts."

The fellowships are also competitive. The Guggenheim Foundation received 3,000 applications from the United States and Canada, and narrowed it down to 173 fellowships this year. Each fellow receives around $40,000. 

"These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best," said Foundation president Edward Hirsch in a statement.

"Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we're thrilled to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group." 

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.