Forget Zoom: this US$50K scholarship offers IRL international networking

Imagine travelling again thanks to a US$50,000 Samstag Scholarship aimed at career development abroad. Applications for 2022 are now open.

COVID has shown us all the capacity we have for connecting with colleagues internationally via digital conferencing platforms. But it has also demonstrated that the value of one-on-one connections in real life (IRL) cannot be replaced.

It was for this reason that last year’s Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarships were suspended.

Director of the Samstag Museum of Art, Erica Green explained: ‘It is a travelling scholarship; it is about being there – immersing yourself in a new culture and connecting with people.

‘Samstag Scholarships are about giving Australian artists the opportunity to travel and study overseas, and given the COVID travel restrictions and health risks, we decided to suspend the scholarships last year as we felt there was no point undertaking a Samstag Scholarship online.’

For 30 years, the annual Samstag Scholarships have enabled Australian artists to develop their artistic capacities and skills through a dedicated period of practice-based learning in an international institution.

Each scholarship covers reasonable costs for 12 months overseas, including institutional fees for one academic year of study (where applicable), a generous tax-exempt stipend of US $50,000, return airfares, travel costs and medical insurance.

Green told ArtsHub: ‘We have always described the scholarship as “a golden passport” – it is a high profile and prestigious opportunity for Australian artists. And the stipend is generous, so you don’t have to be an artist in a garret; you can say, “sure I’d love to join you for a coffee.”’

Green said that there are no specified ‘delivery expectations’ for Scholarship recipients. ‘You don’t have to get a degree or piece of paper – but you do have to be based at an overseas visual arts educational institution for 12 months’

The good news is that this remarkable opportunity is once again on the table. Applications are now open for the 2022 Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarships.

Alex Martinis Roe, To Become Two, installation view, The Showroom, London, 2017. Exhibition design: Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga. Photo credit: Daniel Brooke.

Changes for the next chapter

For the class of 2022, new guidelines will apply. The big change is that applicants no longer need to apply within a five-year period of graduating.

Green said one of the reasonings behind the adjustment was to eliminate any potential gender disadvantage.

‘The program has been going for 30 years. When the Scholarships program first started most of the applications were from undergraduates. Now there is a large cohort of Masters and Doctoral candidates applying, often with family responsibilities. We particularly didn’t want to be disadvantaging women,’ Green explained.  

The Scholarship has stood up under the lens of the Countess Report, which tracks gender parity across the visual arts.

Of the 138 scholarships awarded to date, Green said they have ‘since 1991 been cumulatively evenly awarded to 70 females and 68 males, with the financial value of the Scholarships also favoring women over men, which is an extremely encouraging merit-based statistic.’

She continued: ‘We have also had a number of First Nations artists receive Scholarships, and I am hoping the increased flexibility in the guidelines will encourage more applications.’

Past First Nations recipients have included rea, Darren Siwes, Archie Moore, and Julie Gough.

Another benefit of the scholarship, Green explained, is that the Samstag Museum of Art will often exhibit the work of its recipients. The Museum’s 2021 exhibitions program features previous fellows Alex Martinis Roe, Madison Bycroft, James Nguyen, and Soda Jerk.

‘The alumni is a distinguished who’s who of Australian art, and Samstag scholars are always among the list of artists featured in leading Australian contemporary art exhibitions.  Class of 2010 Samstag Scholar Michelle Nikou, for example, is in the forthcoming 2021 The National. Artists like Shaun Gladwell, Anne Wallace and Nike Savvas describe the Scholarship as a turning point in their career.’

Georgia Saxelby, Lullaby, installation view, 2020 Adelaide//International, Samstag Museum of Art, University of South Australia. Photo: Sam Noonan.

Who qualifies and how to apply

Samstag Scholarships are open to all Australian visual artists.

‘Applicants can come from any tertiary institution in Australia, but they have to be an Australian citizen,’ said Green, adding that if more than one Scholarship was offered in a given year one Scholarship must be awarded to a South Australian visual artist.

The guidelines state that you must be either a student, currently enrolled in a practice-led visual arts program, having successfully completed at least two years of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree; or be a graduate of a practice-led visual art undergraduate degree or postgraduate qualification at an Australian institution of higher education.

Green said that the scholarship selection committee assess applications on the quality of the work first and foremost.

‘Then they will look at what you want to do, and whether the opportunity will be a game changer for the applicant,’ explained Green. ‘You can apply to be an Associate Researcher based at an educational institution of choosing; you don’t have to be formally enrolled in a course.’

She added that the committee was very open to receiving applications from a range of arts practitioners , from emerging through to established artists. ‘It comes down to the fit of what is proposed and how the opportunity would benefit the applicant’s practice.’

Applicants are advised to carefully consider their preferred institutions and destinations for the Class of 2022 applications, given the potential ongoing impact on international travel due to COVID-19.

Samstag Scholarships are administered by the University of South Australia through the Samstag Museum of Art, on behalf of Gordon Samstag’s United States trustee, the Bank of America. The Samstag Museum is not funded by the Trust.

Applications are now open for the 2022 Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarships and will close on 30 June 2021. Learn more about how to apply.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina