Clockwise from top left: Laura Vargas Murcia, Vanina Scocchera, and Yessica Porras (photo by Chris Puttere Photography)

Grants & Awards

Marilynn Thoma Fellows

Announcing the 2021–22 Marilynn Thoma Fellows and Research Award Winners in Art of the Spanish Americas

July 7, 2021

The Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation will award nearly $160,000 in fellowships and grants to support scholarship on the art of the Spanish Americas.  This year, the Foundation is pleased to award three scholars whose work advances our knowledge of mural painting, conventual art, and portable altars in early modern South America.  The Foundation is particularly pleased to support projects that advance our knowledge of art produced in what is now Ecuador, Colombia, and Bolivia.

Now in their third year, the Marilynn Thoma Fellowships and Research & Travel Awards are the only unrestricted research funding in the United States devoted exclusively to the field of art of the Spanish Americas. Inspired by the Thoma Foundation’s collection of over 170 works of art from the 17th to 19th centuries from South America and the Caribbean, these fellowships and awards promote original scholarship that significantly contributes to the understanding of the field. Awarded scholars broadly share their research in museum exhibitions, dissertations, book publications, scholarly essays, and lecture series.

Dr. Laura Vargas Murcia, independent scholar of Colombian art history, has been awarded a two-year Marilynn Thoma Postdoctoral Fellowship in the amount of $120,000 to complete a book manuscript on the cajones (portable altarpieces) of Colombia and Ecuador.  Vargas Murcia’s work will combine extensive archival and collections-based research with scientific analysis to produce a catalogue of extant cajones that will be available in both English and Spanish.

In addition, the Thoma Foundation has granted two Research and Travel Awards totaling nearly $40,000.  Dr. Vanina Scocchera, postdoctoral fellow at the National Research Council of Argentina and Assistant Professor of Spanish American Art History at the University of Buenos Aires, will undertake research in Bolivia related to images and devotional objects in the Carmelite convents of Potosí and Sucre (formerly La Plata).

Yessica Porras, PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, has received an award to complete collections and archival research for her dissertation “Colonial Mural Palimpsests in the Northern Andes: Layers of Memory and Meaning.”  Attending particularly to “mural fragments that emerge from the corners of retablos, wall fissures, and whitewashed surfaces” in churches and convents, Porras’ project explores “the overlap of mural painting and human interaction” in Colombia and Ecuador. 

We celebrate the accomplishments of these awardees and take pride in supporting their scholarly endeavors. The fellows and award winners were selected from a competitive pool of international applicants on the basis of their academic accomplishments, their scholarly commitment to the art of the Spanish Americas, and the relative merit of their projects. All awardees were chosen by a jury of three undisclosed experts in the field.


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