FORMER FELLOWS ARE SAYING about the NAJP
– a sampling of alumni testimonials:
"I feel quite strongly that I'm a better journalist as a direct
result of my NAJP year. Being in New York I was able to reacquaint
myself with the major American dance companies, which is so important
if a critic outside New York is to be able to put them in the proper
context when those companies tour to our hometowns. Second, I took
a class at Columbia in Indian religions, which has helped me in
reviewing traditional Indian dance. Finally, NAJP allowed me to
gain invaluable insight into trends in arts education in this country.
I owe all those experiences to NAJP."
"Throughout its short history, the National Arts Journalism
Program has been an invaluable resource not only to the profession
of criticism but to the practice of the arts. It is one of those
essential university initiatives that provide a public face to academic
ventures, and make the non-university community aware that we have
a responsibility to the commonweal beyond teaching courses. I myself
have been a grateful recipient of NAJP support during a time when
I was writing a number of longer articles, and preparing for a book,
that could not have been accomplished without its help."
"Arts writing practiced as daily journalism tends to accumulate
experience, but not necessarily wisdom. The fellowship program at
NAJP is precisely the pace-breaker that allows good writers and
editors to become great ones."
"Every single sentence I write as an arts journalist is influenced
by my fellowship year."
"More profound than any mere sabbatical, the program offers
the leisure and the leeway to investigate new directions while stimulating
the sometimes jaded neurons of the mid-career critic. I continue
to find friendships and connections made through the NAJP to be
extremely important in my work."
"The National Arts Journalism Program was an unqualified blessing
for me. It was the kind of opportunity writers dream of: leaving
deadlines and pitches behind, talking to a group of talented peers
who you aren't competing with, and the academic atmosphere that
values discovery of fact over instant delivery of information. Having
access to Columbia's classes was possibly the best aspect. Whatever
you were too restless or young to get as a teenager was there to
be done right the second time. It was nine months of bliss."
"The generosity of the award, which placed the considerable
resources of a great university at my disposal, along with the unforgettable
generosity of spirit on the part of the program's administrators,
staff members and professional friends and, of course, on the part
of my fellow NAJP Fellows, provided an encouraging and nurturing
setting in which to do research on specific topics of interest in
the arts and in which to polish one's skills or gain new knowledge
in various subject areas. As a direct result of my NAJP experience,
I was able to better pursue and land certain professional assignments
with a fresh outlook and a sense of clarity and purpose whose value
has been inestimable."
Edward M. Gomez,
"NAJP opened doors for me that I might never have found on
my own. The courses I attended at Columbia had a direct impact on
the trajectory of my writing life. The cornucopia of performance
and art experiences I sought out during my fellowship year have
reshaped my aesthetic and critical sensibilities in a permanent
It would be hard to overstate how much I benefited professionally
from my yearlong fellowship at the National Arts Journalism Program.
I was able to immerse myself in studying the history of architecture,
both from professors at Columbia and in the endless architectural
classroom right outside my door – New York City. I was able
to make the professional contacts that allowed me, almost immediately
after finishing the fellowship, to begin writing fulltime about
architecture and design. Any journalist will tell you that his or
her job, too often, requires moving right from one deadline straight
to the next, with little if any time for real reflection or in-depth
research; this is true not just for hard-news reporters but also
for arts writers and critics. The value of the NAJP is that its
fellowships were designed from the start to provide just that sort
of time, along with a supporting institutional framework at Columbia
that gives the program some shape and structure. At the time the
experience of stepping away from the day-to-day and week-to-week
grind felt like a luxury — and I suppose, looking back, it
was. But it was the sort of luxury that gave my critical sensibility
a more secure grounding and helped my writing in innumerable ways."
"My Senior Fellowship at NAJP was a vital support in making
it possible for me to undertaken and complete my magnum opus, Classical
Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall (forthcoming
from Norton in March 2005). Recently, I was one of the principal
advisors to an NEA music critics’ institute created by NAJP
and funded by the NEA via a Chairman’s Initiative. The critics’
institute was a remarkable experience for all concerned, unquestionably
a template for future such enterprises. And we need an NAJP. The
topic of my recent address to a Music Critics Association conference
was that the current classical-music crisis is also a classical-music-critics’
"NAJP gave me the opportunity to recognize my role within
the entire arts community, and the more I saw myself as a part of
it – not apart from it – the more committed I became
to covering it with equal parts passion, respect and accuracy. By
providing a live, ongoing forum, the NAJP has essentially created
a powerful community of arts writers, one that's more effective
in promoting arts and culture than several multi-million dollar
PR firms combined."
"NAJP is the only national voice advocating for arts journalism
in the United States. At a time when American culture is straining
under rapid change, the role of arts journalists is more and more
important. NAJP has become an essential advocate for quality cultural
journalism, and the leader in the education and development of cultural
journalists. Personally, I can say that my year at NAJP was a pivotal
experience in my own career. My year at Columbia allowed me to step
away from the pressures of daily journalism long enough to plant
the seeds for creating ArtsJournal.com, which has become the leading
aggregator of cultural journalism on the internet. NAJP is an unmatched
incubator of voices in a culture of ideas."
"I returned from my NAJP fellowship a completely new writer.
My editors — and many readers — noticed the change. I came back
with a stronger voice, a newfound self-confidence and a greater
proficiency in three subject areas I focused on during my fellowship:
theater, dance and visual arts. For writers from large newspapers,
the NAJP is a great opportunity to further explore specialized subjects.
But my paper, a medium-sized daily, doesn't have the resources to
employ a large number of staff critics. I'm expected to be able
to write with authority about a large range of subjects. For me,
the NAJP was an incredibly broadening experience."
"A once in a lifetime opportunity came for a hardened, nearly-cynical
arts journalist to create and imagine in an outside-the-box format.
As a Filipina-American there were few venues to replenish my wealth
of knowledge, until I chose to study the fine and entertainment
arts in the American South at and through the University of Georgia.
There are few things that have enriched me emotionally, spiritually
and academically as the NAJP program."
"As the art critic at Newsweek, I had a three-month
NAJP senior fellowship in 1998. It broke the compartmentalization
(hell, isolation!) that a sole critic in an arts field can experience
at a mass magazine, and put me in close touch with younger writers,
in the different areas of the arts, from different kinds of publications."
Peter Plagens, art critic,
Newsweek, Artforum (NAJP 1998-1999)
"My book Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me,
published in May 2004, was widely and (generally) warmly reviewed,
and it was recently nominated by the National Book Critics Circle
as the year’s best book of criticism. I can’t exaggerate
the part the National Arts Journalism Program played in its coming
to fruition. Most important was the support I received from my colleagues
in the program, who formed the first audience for Sontag &
Kael and whose input proved decisive in shaping the book. In
other words, the NAJP was vital to Sontag & Kael. Without
its assistance, I would still be working on the book now and, I
imagine, for some time to come."
"To put it simply, the NAJP changed my life. The opportunity
to study both arts and journalism in an in-depth way was invaluable
to my growth as a writer and producer. And for an arts writer, nothing
can compare to the experience of New York City. The NAJP has a direct
influence on the quality of arts writing today. As long as it exists,
it ensures that good art and good journalism continually progress.
In a country where the arts increasingly struggle for financing
and attention, the NAJP’s mission is both vital and necessary."
"It's typical of my year spent with the program that, entering
it, I had no plans to do something like adapting George Orwell's
book, Homage to Catalonia, to the stage – but I did. I would
simply never get the time or the freedom to do such a thing while
on my regular job as book critic for The Dallas Morning News. It's
typical of my year that we didn't know, as a group, that we'd wind
up making a rare trip to Havana, Cuba — a trip I'm still using
in my reviews of Latin American material. And when I applied for
the fellowship, I had no inkling of what a boost to my knowledge
of publishing Samuel Freedman's course on non-fiction book writing
would turn out to be. Upon my return, I wrote a Sunday column extolling
this remarkable ‘boot camp’ for writers, but I still
cannot say enough about how I put its lessons to use. "
"The fellowship promotes important research and debate about
aspects of culture that are neglected in the general media but warrant
wider public attention. This was very much the case with the April
2003 conference on cultural diplomacy, held just as Americans began
reexamining ways the United States might recast its image abroad
and do more to promote international understanding. The fellowship
fosters a rich and enduring sense of community that in the end benefits
readers as well as writers of arts journalism."
: Fellowships : Alumni