We award Fellowships to promising and established art historians working in the academy or in museums, to critics and other art writers, and to practitioners in other disciplines who are pursuing work that exhibits a critical commitment to inquiry in the analysis, history, theory, or interpretation of visual phenomena. Mellon Fellowships ensure that all activities of the Research and Academic Program have an international reach.

International Initiatives

The Clark, with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, holds a variety of colloquia, workshops, and seminars focused on issues critical to the discipline of art history: the pressing intellectual issues with which art historians must deal, what they teach and publish, and the ways in which their work drives and responds to histories of art produced by museums. A critical goal of this initiative has been to expand the geographies of art history by cultivating international collaborations. By partnering with institutions and scholars in southern Africa, East-Central Europe, and the Indian Ocean region, the Research and Academic Program is engaging with approaches to the discipline that have challenged comfortable notions about how art history is written, with the goal of illuminating the variety of ways in which visual topics are addressed around the globe. This initiative is an ongoing activity, and new collaborations among regional partners have begun to take shape as a result of the Clark’s involvement.

The Trade Routes of Art History


“Trade Routes” is a research initiative supported by a three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This initiative was conceptualized around waterways and maritime routes in order to investigate different modes of art and architectural production, reception, and dissemination in regions connected through the Indian Ocean.






  • Continuing Collaborations:




Unfolding Narratives: Art Histories in East-Central Europe after 1989


The Clark’s Research and Academic Program, together with regional partners, organized this series of three travelling seminars in 2010 and 2011. The seminars were linked thematically as well as by the presence of a core group of participants. The discussion in each location, however, was influenced primarily by the particular intellectual, cultural, and political interests and issues of the specific region and its audiences. Discussions revolved around the extraordinary intellectual energies and innovations that mark the best of the East-Central European intellectual life and sought to continue the facilitation of open dialogue and contact between those working in the US and Western Europe with those in East-Central Europe. This initiative came to Williamstown in 2011, for a two-day workshop to continue the discussion. Additional support for this workshop series was provided by the Getty Foundation.








  • Continuing Collaborations:





    • Workshop: Reshuffling the Keywords
      Tallinn, Estonia, May 25–26, 2012
      Organized in collaboration with the Institute of Art History at the Estonian Academy of Arts


Contemporary African Art: History, Theory, and Practice


This workshop was organized by the Research and Academic Program of the Clark and the Wits School of the Arts at the University of Witwatersrand (WITS) in Johannesburg, South Africa. This project, undertaken with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, examined more than forty years of art historical scholarship about modern and contemporary African art. The two components of the workshop, international gatherings of distinguished scholars and artists, took place in 2007 and 2008. The initial phase of the workshop was held at WITS (October 25–28, 2007), and the second phase at the Clark in Williamstown, Massachusetts (May 22–25, 2008). This was followed by a Getty-funded residency for African participants in Williamstown and New York City from May 25–30, 2008.

Please click here for more information on "Contemporary African Art: History, Theory, and Practice"


  • Continuing Collaborations:




Lisa Saltzman Named RAP Director

Lisa Saltzman has been named Starr Director of the Research and Academic Program (RAP). Saltzman is the chair of the Department of the History of Art at Bryn Mawr College and is the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Chair in the Humanities. She will lead the program’s international agenda of intellectual events and collaborations and will oversee the Clark’s residential Fellows program, all based on the Institute’s 140-acre campus. Saltzman begins her position in January 2018.

Academic Programs

Clark Conferences (and the corresponding volumes published as Clark Studies in the Visual Arts), Clark Symposia, Clark Colloquia, Clark Conversations, and Clark Lectures address vital topics in the field and nurture a broader public understanding of visual art's role in culture.

Graduate Program in the History of Art

With Williams College, the Clark co-sponsors a Graduate Program in the History of Art, whose specialized course of study prepares students for professions in the academic and museum worlds.

History of RAP

The Research and Academic Program (RAP) at the Clark began to take its current shape in the late 1990s, but its roots hark back to the earliest days of the museum. A commitment to academic research and scholarly study has been an integral part of the Clark’s mission since its founding in 1950, with the institution’s original charter directly stipulating “facilities for study and research in the fine arts.” The Clark library and the Graduate Program in the History of Art were founded over the ensuing decades, laying the groundwork for an even stronger institutional commitment to research and scholarship in the visual arts. In the 1990s, the Clark’s Board of Trustees authorized the development of a fellowship program for visiting scholars as well as a series of conferences and symposia. These programs expanded and coalesced into the Research and Academic Program we know today.

First under the direction of John Onians for nearly two years, and later Michael Ann Holly for fourteen years, RAP has expanded its purview to include collaborations and research initiatives in Williamstown and around the globe, with leadership in art historical scholarship. The annual fellowship program has hosted more than 300 scholars since its founding. RAP’s rich programming of conferences, symposia, and colloquia has brought nearly 1,000 scholars, curators, and educators to the Clark and beyond. In support of these programs, RAP has received generous support from a broad range of foundations and institutions. The Manton Foundation established an endowment in support of the program in 2007. The program’s directorship was endowed by the Starr Foundation in 2008. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Getty Foundation have both provided integral support for RAP’s international events and imaginative programming.

In recent years, RAP has collaborated with a growing roster of partner institutions, including the Getty Research Institute, the Council of Library and Information Resources, and the Institut national d’histoire d’art (INHA), as well as research universities across Eastern and Central Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Programs closer to home continue this international spirit, with scholars from five continents having come through the fellowship program on the Clark’s campus in Williamstown. Thanks to generous support and collaborative efforts, RAP’s commitment to intellectual engagement in the visual arts both at home and abroad will continue to thrive in the years to come.

About RAP

The Clark offers an independent Research and Academic Program (RAP) designed to encourage fresh approaches to the production of knowledge about all periods and genres of art, and particularly the objects, conditions, and issues they comprise.
Lisa Saltzman, Starr Director, Research and Academic Program
Lisa Saltzman, Starr Director, Research and Academic Program


Clark Studies in the Visual Arts

The Clark Studies in the Visual Arts series provides an international forum for scholars and museum professionals to confront the philosophical and political questions provoked by the study of the visual arts in culture. Based on the proceedings of the annual Clark Conferences, these important publications encourage an interdisciplinary exploration of issues that are timely, relevant, and even controversial.