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2016 Award Guidelines

Receipt Deadline: November 1, 2016

The Marfield Prize, also known as the National Award for Arts Writing, is given annually by the Arts Club of Washington to nonfiction books about the arts written for a broad audience. Intended to help increase access to the arts, the Prize celebrates prose that is lucid, luminous, clear, and inspiring—writing that creates a strong connection with arts and artists.

The Prize of $10,000, the only one of its kind in the country, honors nonfiction books first published in the U.S., by a single author who is living at the time of the book’s nomination. The winning author is invited to Washington, DC for a short residency in May 2017, including an Awards Ceremony, a presentation to a DC Public high school, and a public reading at the Arts Club of Washington. Expenses are paid by the Club.

Judging is by a distinguished, independent panel of writers. The judges in the past have included: Remica Bingham, Sophy Burnham, Grace Cavalieri, Alan Cheuse, Rita Dove, Richard Ford, Marita Golden, Wayne Karlin, Candace Katz, Jamaica Kincaid, David Kipen, Ted Libbey, E. Ethelbert Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, Alan Michael Parker, Linda Pastan, Molly Peacock, Nancy Pearl, Robert Pinsky, Reynolds Price, and Ira Silverberg.


Books must be nonfiction titles written in English by a single, living author, originally published in the United States in 2016. Books may be about any artistic discipline (visual, literary, performing, or media arts, as well as cross-disciplinary works). We seek art history and criticism, biographies and memoirs, and essays. Anthologies, creative works of fiction or poetry, books for children, exhibition catalogs and self-published books are not eligible.

To submit a book for consideration:

Publishers, agents, or authors may submit books for consideration. There is no entry fee. Three copies of the book should be submitted with the 2016 Marfield Prize Submission Form.

Nominations must be received by November 1, 2016.

Mail entries to:

Sass Brown
Award Administrator Marfield Prize/National Award for Arts Writing
Arts Club of Washington
2017 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20006-1804

Please do not include promotional materials. Books scheduled to be published between the deadline of November 1 and December 31, 2016 may be sent in galley form. All submitted material becomes the property of the Arts Club of Washington and will not be returned.

About the Award

The National Award for Arts Writing is given annually by the Arts Club of Washington to the authors of a nonfiction book about the visual, literary or performing arts. Works first published in the United States during the previous calendar year are eligible for consideration. Created to generate broader interest in the arts among general readers, the award celebrates prose that is lucid, luminous, clear, and inspiring—writing that creates a strong connection with arts and artists.  First given in 2006, the prize’s endowment was established by long-time Arts Club member Jeannie S. Marfield in honor of Florence Berryman and Helen Wharton.

Past Winners

Philip Gefter, Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe (Liveright, 2014)

Sherill Tippins, Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)

Anne-Marie O’Connor, The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (Knopf, 2012)

Yael Tamar Lewin, Night’s Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins (Wesleyan University Press, 2011)

R. Tripp Evans, Grant Wood: A Life (Knopf, 2010)

Linda Gordon, Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits (W.W. Norton & Company, 2009)

Michael Sragow, Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master (Pantheon Books, 2008)

Brenda Wineapple, White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Knopf, 2008)

Jenny Uglow, Nature’s Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007)

Scott Reynolds Nelson, Steel Drivin’ Man—John Henry: The Untold Story (Oxford University Press, 2006)


Past Finalists

Justin MartinRebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians (Da Capo Press, 2014)

James HarveyWatching Them Be: Star Presence on the Screen (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014)

Stanley PlumlyThe Immortal Evening (W.W. Norton & Company, 2014)

Ellen T. HarrisGeorge Frideric Handel: A Life with Friends (W.W. Norton & Company, 2014)

Joan RothfussTopless Cellist: The Improbable Life of Charlotte Moorman (The MIT Press, 2014)

Benita EislerThe Red Man’s Bones: George Catlin, Artist and Showman (W.W. Norton & Company, 2013)

Witold RybczynskiHow Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013)

John Shaw, This Land that I Love: Irving Berlin, Woody Guthrie, and the Story of Two American Anthems (Public Affairs, 2013)

Terry TeachoutDuke: A Life of Duke Ellington (Gotham Books, 2013)

Sam WassonFosse (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)

Michael DirdaOn Conan Doyle: Or, the Whole Art of Storytelling (Princeton University Press, 2012)

Timothy Egan, The Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)

David ThomsonThe Big Screen: The Story of the Movies (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012)

Robert GreenfieldThe Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun (Simon & Schuster, 2011)

Gail LevinLee Krasner: A Biography (William Morrow, 2011)

David McCulloughThe Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (Simon & Schuster, 2011)

Meryle SecrestModigliani: A Life (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011)

Yunte HuangCharlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History (W. W. Norton & Company, 2010)

Jamie MacVicarThe Advance Man (Bear Manor Media, 2010)

Sara MarcusGirls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot GRRRL Revolution (Harper Perennial, 2010)

Lilian Pizzichini, The Blue Hour: A Life of Jean Rhys (W.W. Norton & Company, 2009)

David Lehman, A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs ( Schocken, 2009)

Judith L. Sensibar, Faulkner and Love: The Women Who Shaped His Art ( Yale University Press, 2009)

Carolyn Brown, Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years with Cage and Cunningham (Knopf, 2007)

Nigel Cliff, The Shakespeare Riots: Revenge, Drama and Death in Nineteenth-Century America ( Random House, 2007)

William Jelani Cobb, To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip-Hop Aesthetic (New York University Press, 2007)

Ross King, The Judgement of Paris : The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism (Walker & Co, 2006)

Jonathan Lopez, The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren (Harcourt, Inc., 2008)

Julie Philips, James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon (St. Martin’s Press, 2006)

Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007)

Leonard Todd, Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave (W.W. Norton, 2008)

For questions or additional information, please email

Download the 2016 Marfield Prize Submission Form

One response to "2016 Award Guidelines"


[...] LONG SHOTS The connection to the Arts Club of Washington, in relation to its annual $10,000 prize for a [...]

10.3.14LailyDinks | Daily Links & News commented on October 3rd, 2014 at 3:36 pm

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