Three CUNY professors win honorable Guggenheim Fellowships


CUNY Website

Angelica Tejada, Opinions Editor

Three CUNY educators were awarded 2021 Guggenheim Fellowships for their work in arts, letters and photography. This accomplishment places CUNY as one of the universities with the most winners for the award, which is one of the country’s most prestigious honors supporting those in scholarly disciplines and artistic fields.

“My deep congratulations and heartfelt gratitude to these esteemed fellows for their extraordinary work and for this outstanding honor which they, in turn, have also bestowed on CUNY,” Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez said.

One of the CUNY Guggenheim fellows is A.K. Burns, who is an interdisciplinary artist and distinguished lecturer of art and art history at Hunter College.

Victoria Johnson, a biographer and professor of urban policy and planning at Hunter College, also received the award. The third recipient was Chris Verene, a photographer, musician and associate professor of photography at the College of Staten Island.

“Their accomplishments demonstrate that public higher education – and its educators – are crucial to the fabric of humanities. These newly named Guggenheim fellows have excelled at a time of intense anxiety, and we know that their work will continue to enlighten and enrich us,” Matos Rodríguez added.

Burns’s work is in various museums including the Museum of Modern Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Additionally, Burns was a founding member of Working Artists in the Greater Economy, which is a New York-based nonprofit organization that advocates for labor issues in the arts.

According to Burns’ website, he “views the body as a contentious domain wherein disparities are reexamined as potential sites of agency. Working to agitate systems of value, Burns utilizes audio-video, installation, sculpture, collage-drawing, writing and collaboration. The process of coming to matter is always in relief against that which does not matter such as; excess, waste and marginalized experiences. It is this space of supposed ‘non-mattering’ where Burns most often dwells.”

Johnson’s latest book is titled “American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic,” which is a biography of Alexander Hamilton’s personal physician. It was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in History, the 2018 National Book Award in Nonfiction and the 2018 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Biography.

Her award “will support her work on a book about the Hudson River artist Frederic Church during a sabbatical next year,” a CUNY press release reported.

For 30 years, Verene has been photographing his family, friends and community in his family’s hometown of Galesburg, Illinois, and has published two books titled “Chris Verene” and “Family.” Verene’s photography is represented in multiple museums including The Whitney, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Jewish Museum.

“As a teacher at an urban public college, I teach students from all walks of life, many whom juggle jobs, children and full-time college,” Verene said in an interview with Huff Post. “These young students are so inspiring to me, and keep me grounded.”

Two CUNY alumni also received fellowships for their work in fiction, poetry and the performing arts. The two alumni recipients are novelist and journalist Kaitlyn Greenidge and poet Tracie Morris.

Both have a master of fine arts degree from Hunter College. Greenidge graduated in 2010 and Morris in 2001.

This year, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded 184 fellowships to artists and scholars across various backgrounds. According to the foundation’s website, approximately 3,000 applications are received yearly and all applications go through a rigorous peer-review process.

“With three Guggenheim fellows in 2021, CUNY is tied for 10th place among the nation’s universities for the number of awardees on its faculty,” a CUNY press release said.