Art & the Artist

Major in the Art of Living at the American Academy in Rome

This center for independent studies and advanced research allows arts and humanities students an unrivaled opportunity to immerse themselves in the Eternal City

Established in 1894, the American Academy in Rome is the United States’ oldest overseas center for independent studies in advanced research in the arts and humanities. It gives artists and scholars in 11 disciplines the chance to live and work in the Italian capital, and is the only establishment on earth that “exceeds what universities are able to do in terms of providing the time and space to develop projects without any external requirements,” says Mark Robbins, president and CEO of The American Academy in Rome.

A black and white full length portrait of American Academy in Rome CEO Mark Robbins
Pictured here in the academy’s library, Mark Robbins, CEO of The American Academy in Rome, oversees the immersive study program open to a select few fellows chosen each year.

Each year the academy sponsors highly competitive fellowships, offering fellows work space, accommodation, and board at the institution’s 11-acre (4.5 ha) campus on Rome’s Janiculum Hill, as well as a stipend on which to survive. “It’s a multidisciplinary community where everybody is similarly dislocated,” says Robbins, who was himself a fellow here in the 1990s.

Rome is like an outdoor museum, it’s amazing to see people living and working there, being able to take a walk through the Forum, or a stroll around the tomb of Augustus,” Robbins continues. “Being a stranger in a place allows you to discover new things, similar to when you’re a tourist. The city becomes vivid, open to you. It’s a unique experience, then, to have this community of people to share and question these discoveries.”

Among those who have passed through the academy are painter Philip Guston, a fellow in 1949; writer Anthony Doerr, who wrote the acclaimed Four Seasons in Rome while at the academy in 2005, and also started his Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See there; and medieval scholar Marina Rustow in 2007.

Black and white picture of Philip Guston in his studio
Along with his contemporaries Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston was a pioneer of Abstract Expressionism. He can be seen here in his studio at the academy during his fellowship in 1949.

Robbins, who took the reins in 2014, hopes that today it is “a place that reflects the broadness of American culture, that is really based on difference and also more global. We are not a monoculture.” To reflect this, the academy has initiated a program for faculty from Tuskegee University in Alabama, and—through the Institute of International Education—for artists affected by civil conflict from places such as Syria and South Africa.

This year, the gift of “time and space to think and work” was awarded to 35 Americans plus five Italian artists and scholars, across disciplines including Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, Architecture, Modern Italian Studies, and Musical Composition.

The Rome Prize competition runs until November 2021. To learn more, visit the website at

Banner image: The American Academy in Rome’s campus on Janiculum Hill