NCECA Helene Zucker Seeman Curatorial, Research, and Critical Writing Fellowship for Women

DEADLINE: October 9, 2019 (11:59pm EDT)
Applications and all Letters of Recommendation must be submitted by October 9, 2019 (11:59pm EDT)

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NCECA is pleased to announce that friends of the late Helene Zucker Seeman are establishing two monetary awards through NCECA. One will provide an enriched monetary stipend to a female identifying 2020 NCECA Emerging Artist. The other, detailed below, is the NCECA Helene Zucker Seeman Curatorial, Research, and Critical Writing Fellowship for Women.

NCECA’s purpose is to promote and improve the ceramic arts through education, research, and creative practice. The NCECA Helene Zucker Seeman Curatorial, Research, and Critical Writing Fellowship for Women has been created to encourage, support, and develop research, curatorial work, and critical writing in the field of ceramics. Monetary support received through this fellowship may be applied to direct costs associated with research related to and/or production of an exhibition. The subject(s) and goal(s) of inquiry must be described in the project description. We use an inclusive definition of the terms “woman” and “female”. We welcome trans and cis women as well as genderqueer, and non-binary people.

The applicant must make a project proposal for use of the $2,000 award, and must submit additional materials as specified in the Application Process. One award in the amount of $2,000 will be given of which $1,000 (half the total amount) will be mailed upon return of the signed agreement. The award also includes a one-year membership with NCECA and a complimentary 2020 conference pass. The Fellowship recipient will be notified of the selection in late 2019 and publicly announced during the closing ceremonies of the 2020 conference, in Richmond, Virginia, March 25-28. 2020. The balance of $1,000 will be sent following completion of a project report, once it has been reviewed and approved. Final fellowship report is due by December 31, 2020.

Curator, archivist, art historian, author, mentor, wife, mother, friend. This list describes the varied roles Helene Seeman played, but it only hints at who she was, what she achieved, and how deeply she affected the many people whose lives she touched before hers ended tragically and all too soon the summer of 2010.

Helene is probably best known for building an internationally acclaimed art collection for the Prudential Companies, but she began building her own career in the late 1970s at the Louis K. Meisel Gallery in Soho. Bronx born and raised, with a newly minted Masters in Library Science and Archival Research, she landed a job as a receptionist, but her intelligence and energy moved her ahead quickly. It wasn’t long before she was the gallery’s director. While in that position, Helene researched and documented with Meisel and Gregory Battock “Photorealism,” a definitive description of what was, in 1980, a burgeoning new art movement. Helene was an accomplished writer authoring, “Soho: A Guide,” co-authored with Alanna Siegfried in 1978. The book was reviewed and well received by the N.Y. Times. Helene’s work was prescient, recognizing Soho as a thriving artists’ community long before it had been discovered by others and become the prototype for arts-driven urban revitalization that other cities have tried to emulate.

Helene’s ability to recognize “firsts” was very much in evidence in her role as director of the arts acquisition program at Prudential. Over nearly two decades, she built a $20 million collection recognized for its range as well as its value. At Prudential, Helene was working with architects and engineers to implement numerous site installations she commissioned with recognized sculptors and artists. The 10,000 works include contemporary painting, sculpture, crafts, glass, ceramics, photography, folk art, and American Indian artifacts. The Prudential collection reflected the depth of Helene’s knowledge of art, the variety of her interests, and especially her ability to recognize emerging artists. One gallery owner, who, like many with whom Helene worked over the years, became a friend, recalls both Helene’s “keen eye” and her “infectious excitement” when she saw a work to which she was drawn.

Helene used her position at Prudential not just to build a widely admired and valuable collection for the company, but also to advance the careers of many young artists, whose talent she recognized and whose works she commissioned for Prudential buildings all over the country.

Helene was especially committed to promoting the work of women artists, which she did in a variety of ways. As an archivist, she compiled visuals depicting the work of women artists from every country in the world, creating a touring exhibit displayed in museums world-wide. As a curator, a collector in her own right, and as an adviser to other collectors, Helene purchased the works of women artists early in their careers, providing crucial support for many of them.

Helene relished the interaction with artists almost as much as she enjoyed experiencing their art. As important as the financial support she gave so many artists by purchasing, or directing the purchase, of their work, was the encouragement and emotional support she offered them as a trusted advisor, mentor, and friend. A recognized authority on contemporary art and archival research, Helene was often quoted by print and broadcast journalists, lectured extensively, and served regularly on art-selection juries. Because she understood the business of art as well as its aesthetics, she was a valued and active member of Artable, the National Association for Corporate Art Managers, and the Association of Corporate Art Curators, among other professional organizations.

After leaving Prudential, Helene advised many private clients on their art collections and acquisitions, among them: the Hunter Museum, the New York University Graduate Center, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and the Maître Binoche Auction House (Paris, France). As an adjunct professor at NYU’s School of Continuing Education for the past several years, she shared her knowledge of and passion for art with students of varied ages in a course, Creating Corporate and Public Art Collections, that was consistently over-subscribed. Always an admirer of ceramics, Helene became an ardent ceramicist, working at Greenwich House, and for the first time became a maker of objects. Helene pursued this new interest with the energy and intensity she brought to everything she did, forging new alliances, expanding her knowledge of art, and deriving immense pleasure from this new experience.

Helene was always deeply immersed in the art world, but she was also very much involved in the community in which she lived. Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, she co-founded Battery Park City United, a grassroots community organization dedicated to preserving the Battery Park City neighborhood she lived in with her husband Fred and their two sons, Ford and Curtis. Helene played a key role in organizing the local community in rebuilding that badly damaged neighborhood. As a community representative on the board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, she was an articulate and effective advocate for preserving and expanding the neighborhood’s parks.

Since the birth of Ford, their first child, Helene and Fred, her husband of 38 years, who met in high school at the Bronx High School of Science, made Princeton, New Jersey their second home, spending summers there for the past 23 years. There too, Helene made numerous warm and important friendships. For over 20 years she played an active role in the Nassau Swim Club, a cooperative community pool. Helene helped to organize social events and assisted at swim meets. She also still took the time to mentor many individuals interested in the arts.

Helene did not let family life take a second seat to her career and her passion for art. Her home in New York City was a gathering place for the Seeman and Zucker families and their friends. In Princeton too, her home was always filled with family and the family’s NJ area friends. Helene never missed a football game that her son Curtis played at Pennington High School in New Jersey, as years earlier she never missed her sons’ weekly competitive basketball games at the Carmine Street Recreation Center in Greenwich Village.

Helene’s death stunned and saddened the communities in which she had been so actively involved. On short notice more than 700 people attended her memorial service. The tributes – and there have been many – have focused as much on her personal strengths as on her professional achievements: Her integrity, her warmth, her humor, the passion with which she lived her life, the love with which she enveloped her family and her wide circle of friends. Many people touch others; few leave their fingerprints behind. Helene left her fingerprints, deep and lasting, on the people she touched and on the art world to which she contributed so much.

In one of the numerous eloquent memorials, written about Helene, gallery owner Cheryl Plavin wrote of Helene’s death: “One of the things that bothered me the most was that I had been cheated of a good-bye. Here she was leaving all of us behind, and we could not bid her farewell. They say a person is not truly gone as long as there is one person left to remember her. If that is true, Helene will be with us for a very long time.”

Helene was committed to advancing the careers of many young artists—especially women artists—whom she supported throughout her career as a curator, a collector, and, equally important, a mentor, trusted adviser, and friend.

Female/female-identifying graduate students in curatorial (or related) studies, emerging curators, and critical writers. We use an inclusive definition of the terms “woman” and “female”. We welcome trans and cis women as well as genderqueer, and non-binary people.
***IMPORTANT***Although the system that supports this submission form does not currently include an active word counter, NCECA asks all applicants to note and adhere to word count limitations that are identified in open fields.

The best way to do this for most applicants will be to compose responses to these open fields first utilizing the word-processing software on your computer or device and take advantage of the included word-counting tools.

Once composed, proofed, and counted, you can copy your text from your local word processing software into the appropriate fields in the form. Please note that in some instances, special characters copied from word processing platforms may be converted in the form system. For this reason, we caution applicants on the use of special characters where not absolutely necessary.

NCECA reserves the right to exclude applications that disregard word count limits and to edit any and all text submitted for reasons ranging from space allocation to style, fluency of language, and grammatical concerns. All applications must be submitted using NCECA’s Online Submittal process (a link to the form is provided below).

Applicants are strongly advised to prepare the following BEFORE starting the online submission process. Your online submittal form must include the following or it will not be considered:

  • Name/contact information will auto-populate once you have logged in to and accessed the form in the NCECA database.
  • Proposed Curatorial, Research, or Critical Writing Project description (Limit 500 words)
    The project must be supportive of your goals as a curator, researcher, and/or critical writing author. Clearly state your objectives, how the award will be used to fulfill those objectives, an itemized budget (See Excel Template below), and the anticipated impact the fellowship will have on your research/curatorial/critical writing practice. Awards may not be used for tuition. The purpose of the NCECA Helene Zucker Seeman Curatorial, Research, and Critical Writing Fellowship for Women is to advance curatorial inquiry and exhibition development rather than personal artistic production.
  • Project Abstract (Limit 100 words)
  • Budget Excel spreadsheet (download template)
  • Required for Graduate Student applicants
    • 1. Name, City and State of School/Institution currently attending.
    • 2. Cumulative Undergraduate and Graduate GPAs.
    • 3. Transcripts (official/unofficial) One undergraduate and one graduate transcript required, up to four allowed. (Upload as.doc, .docx or .pdf, not to exceed 2MB).
  • IMAGES: No fewer than 5 and no more than 10 images (upload as jpg only – each image no larger than 800 KB) Include images that are relevant to the project.
  • Required information for each image: Artist name, title of work, date, image description, clay type, firing method, dimensions (H, W, D), and photo credit (if applicable) (Limit 50 words)
  • Image relevance to project (Limit 50 words)
  • Recommenders’ information to include: Name, institution affiliation/profession, best phone, email, and relationship.
  • Two (2) Letters of Recommendation – Letters should address your competencies and commitment to your research, professional curatorial practice, and/or critical writing.

Please request your letters in a timely fashion allowing enough time for your recommenders to complete and submit their Letters of Recommendation by October 9, 2019 (11:59pm EDT)

******All Letters of Recommendation are to be emailed confidentially by the Recommenders to For ease of communication, please include these instructions when requesting letters from your recommenders.

Letters should address the applicant’s competencies and commitment to research, professional curatorial practice, and/or critical writing.

Letters of Recommendation are to be emailed confidentially by the Recommenders to by October 9, 2019 (11:59pm EDT).

Email subject line is to be formatted as Last name_First name_2020_Curatorial Fellowship
The letter may be attached as .doc, .docx, or .pdf ONLY.

The Nominations Committee includes the Steward of the Board and/or one President, one Director at Large, one Student Director at Large, an Honorary Member or Fellow of the Council, and one member at large appointed by the president. Proposals will be evaluated based on innovation, rigor, criticality of concepts described within the project, and the potential impact of research on the field. Additional factors impacting the outcome will be letters of recommendation and quality of visual support materials. The committee will review submissions and notify applicants by: December 1, 2019.

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