The Marfield Prize
THE MARFIELD PRIZE, the National Award for Arts Writing, has its roots in a gift of friendship.
Lovers of the arts—and books that illuminate them—are invited to extend that spirit through their support.
The Marfield Prize endowment was established with a gift to the Arts Club of Washington from longtime member Jeannie S. Marfield in honor of Florence Berryman and Helen Wharton.
Please consider adding your name to the list of the Marfield Prize’s friends by becoming a vital supporter of our activities during this award cycle, including public and educational programs.
Of course, we welcome any amount you wish to donate to support the Marfield Prize fund this year. Please mail your donation to Ito Briones Chair, Marfield Prize Committee Arts Club of Washington 2017 I Street, NW Washington, DC 20006. Make checks payable to Arts Club of Washington/Marfield Prize.
Read what Wendy Lesser said about winning the Marfield Prize last year.
Wendy Lesser: You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2017)
“The Marfield Prize was a wonderful boost in all sorts of ways…. It gave me the sense that real readers out there appreciated my book (and it was a delight to meet some of them in person when I came to Washington). It made my publishers view me as a prize-winning writer, well worth backing on future books. And it brought me the extremely useful sum of $10,000, which has basically paid this year’s research costs on my next book. So many thanks, all round!”
MARFIELD SPONSOR $90 gift • One reservation for the award presentation dinner on June 6, 2019. (Sponsor-level donors help support special guests for the event.)
FRIENDS OF HELEN $500 gift • Lunch for two with the president of the Arts Club and Marfield Prize committee chair • Reservation for two for the June 6 award dinner
FRIENDS OF FLORENCE $1,000 gift • A personally inscribed copy of the award- winning book • Lunch for four with the president of the Arts Club and Marfield Prize committee chair • Reservation for two for the June 6 award dinner
FRIENDS OF JEANNIE $2,500 gift • Special recognition by the Arts Club president during the award presentation program • Dinner seating at the award recipient’s table • A personally inscribed copy of the award- winning book. • Lunch for six with the president of the Arts Club and Marfield Prize committee chair • Reservation for two for the June 6 award dinner
SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY FRIEND OF THE MARFIELD A gift of $10,000 or more underwrites this year’s award prize. It provides the donor with a private dinner for up to ten guest in the second-floor salon of the Arts Club featuring a performance by Juilliard-trained concert pianist Christopher Schmitt.
(Dinner scheduling subject to availability of the Arts Club and performer.)
For more information, call 703-626-2931 or email Ito Briones, Chair of the Marfield Prize 2018: email@example.com.
Read the testimonials of past Marfield winners and how the Prize has helped them.
Rachel Corbett: You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin (W. W. Norton & Company: 2016)
“Winning the Marfield Prize in 2017 couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I met a vast number of interesting and culturally engaged members of the Arts Club of Washington during the prize reception. I’ve kept in touch with many of them and some of those relationships have resulted in other events and collaborations. I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out and am reminded of that every time I see my book with the Marfield name printed at the top of the jacket!”
Michael Riedel: Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway (Simon & Schuster: 2015)
“I was surprised and delighted to win the Marfield Prize in 2015. The $10,000 check has been put to good use: It’s paid for transcription services for my next book, a follow-up to Razzle Dazzle. As any nonfiction writer can you tell, the cost of transcribing hours of interviews with (in my case) over a 100 sources is not cheap. Ten thousand dollars comes in handy. I am grateful to the Marfield Prize for bringing attention to arts writing, from visual arts to performing arts, biography to criticism. It’s not easy getting books on the arts published. But the Marfield Prize adds prestige and publicity to the endeavor and I know that my publisher, Simon and Schuster, is pleased to have a Marfield alum in its stable of writers.”
Philip Gefter: Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe (Liveright: 2014)
“It is a prestigious honor that I cite in the first paragraph of my Wikipedia biography, for example, as a substantial acknowledgment of my achievement in the field. The monetary prize has been helpful in my current project, which is a biography of Richard Avedon (on the Harper imprint at HarperCollins); I am using the funds slowly to pay for the several hundred transcriptions of interviews I have conducted as research for the biography. Money well spent. I thank the Washington Arts Club again for the great honor.”
Sherill Tippins: Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel
“I have such wonderful memories of my visit there and of all the people I met…. the wonderful news that my book about the Chelsea had been awarded the Marfield Prize, with the unusually large monetary grant attached, stirred up memories of all I’d learned about other writers’ and artists’ attempts to create as much financial freedom as possible for themselves in order to have more time for creative work. I was determined to put these lessons to the best possible use—to invest the $10,000 in a way that would reduce my living expenses as much as possible, for as long as possible, so that I might enjoy opportunities to experiment more, to try new avenues of research, to read for long periods of time while new ideas formed, without having to leap headlong into a new publishing contract.”
Anne-Marie O’Connor: The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (Knopf: 2012)
“I felt an immediate impact from my Marfield Prize from my publisher, Knopf, which trumpeted the win on social media, and congratulated me.
I sat next to the Austrian ambassador at the dinner in Washington, and met with journalists and cultural figures in Washington during my several day residency for the prize. It was a real thrill to stay in the historic mansion. From a morale standpoint, it was an amazing experience to win the prize. It was a huge emotional honor to receive the recognition. I first wrote about the Maria Altmann case in October 2001, and I finished writing the book 10 years later, in the fall of 2011. Books require a lot of research and time to come together. Getting the recognition of the Marfield Prize was one of the highlights of my life. When The Lady in Gold made The New York Times bestseller lists in 2015, I felt like the Marfield Prize had provided me with some of the support to give me the endurance to keep backing the book publicly in appearances and speeches, which is also an important part of the book process. I am very grateful to the Marfield Prize and the DC Arts Club for all of this.”
Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits (W. W. Norton & Company: 2009)
“The prize boosted my self-confidence greatly! In working on Lange, I think I had a nagging worry that art critics wouldn’t be interested in what I have to say, especially since I view photography as always produced in large part by its historical context. So the prize was deeply reassuring. I’ve since written another biography of a photographer, and approached it with more confidence because of the Marfield prize.”
Brenda Wineapple: White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Anchor: 2008)
“I was thrilled with the prize, particularly because the judges were so eminent. And naturally the money did not hurt since writers are always in need.”
Michael Sragow: Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master (Pantheon: 2008)
“I have nothing but grateful and affectionate feelings for the Arts Club and the Marfield Prize!”
The National Award for Arts Writing, also known as the Marfield Prize, recognizes the author of an outstanding nonfiction book about the visual, literary, media, or performing arts. This $10,000 prize is designed to recognize excellence in arts writing for a broad audience.
Intended to help increase access to the arts, the award celebrates prose that is clear and inspiring, creating a strong connection with the arts and artists. The prize honors accessible nonfiction books first published in the United States by an author who is living at the time of the book’s nomination.
Books are judged by a distinguished, independent panel of writers. Past judges have included Alan Cheuse, Rita Dove, Richard Ford, Jamaica Kincaid, Joyce Carol Oates, Nancy Pearl, Robert Pinsky, and Ira Silverberg.
The winning author is invited to Washington, DC, for a short residency that includes an awards ceremony, a presentation to a DC public high school, an interview, and a public reading at the Arts Club of Washington. Expenses are paid by the club.
For more information, please email Ito Briones, Chair of the Marfield Prize 2018, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Complete list of past recipients of the award are:
- Wendy Lesser for “You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2017)
- Rachel Corbett for You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin (W. W. Norton & Company: 2016)
- Michael Riedel for Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway (Simon & Schuster: 2015)
- Philip Gefter for Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe (Liveright: 2014)
- Sherill Tippins for Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 2013)
- Anne-Marie O’Connor for The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (Knopf: 2012)
- Yael Tamar Lewin for Night’s Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins (Wesleyan University Press: 2011)
- R. Tripp Evans for Grant Wood: A Life (Alfred A. Knopf: 2010)
- Linda Gordon for Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits (W. W. Norton & Company: 2009)
- Brenda Wineapple for White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Anchor: 2008)
- Michael Sragow for Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master (Pantheon: 2008)
- Jenny Uglow for Nature’s Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2007)
- Scott Reynolds Nelson for Steel Drivin’ Man: John Henry — The Untold Story of an American Legend (Oxford University Press: 2006)
MARFIELD PRIZE NEWS
Rachel Corbett Discusses You Must Change Your Life with Grace Cavalieri at the Library of Congress
Listen to Audio Podcast (28:49 minutes)
You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin (W. W. Norton & Company) is a vivid biography of the young and then-unknown poet Rainer Maria Rilke and the notorious sculptor who served as his mentor. The book traces their surprising friendship and heartbreaking rift, having met when a penniless Rilke came to Paris in 1906 to research and write a short biography of Rodin. What resulted was an instant and unexpected synergy about art and creativity during the dawn of modernism in Paris. Written in luminous prose and drawing on extensive research, Corbett provides a glimpse into the origins of some of Rilke’s beloved poems, as well as the risks and rewards of the artistic life.
Michael Riedel Discusses Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway with Grace Cavalieri at the Library of Congress
Listen to Audio Podcast (28:55 minutes)
Razzle Dazzle (Simon & Schuster) is a vivid biography of Broadway itself, told through a history of the venerable Shubert Organization. It is full of larger-than-life characters, like Bernard Jacobs and Jerry Schoenfeld, who took over leadership of the production company in the 1970s, when both Broadway and New York City were at low points. They went on to revitalize Times Square, change the face of New York, and produce many of Broadway’s most iconic productions. Drawing on extensive interviews and research, Riedel creates a comprehensive insider’s look, exposing bitter rivalries, unlikely alliances, and of course, scintillating gossip.
Philip Gefter Discusses Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe with Grace Cavalieri at the Library of Congress
“The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress” is now celebrating 38 years on air, founded and still produced by poet Grace Cavalieri. This recorded program features an interview with 2014 Marfield Prize Winner Philip Gefter who discusses the life of photography collector Sam Wagstaff with selected readings from the winning book Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe.