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ALUMNI TESTIMONIALS

WHAT FORMER FELLOWS ARE SAYING about the NAJP – a sampling of alumni testimonials:

"I feel quite strongly that I'm a better journalist as a direct result of my NAJP year. Being in New York I was able to reacquaint myself with the major American dance companies, which is so important if a critic outside New York is to be able to put them in the proper context when those companies tour to our hometowns. Second, I took a class at Columbia in Indian religions, which has helped me in reviewing traditional Indian dance. Finally, NAJP allowed me to gain invaluable insight into trends in arts education in this country. I owe all those experiences to NAJP."
Laura Bleiberg, dance critic, Orange County Register (NAJP 2001-2002)

"Throughout its short history, the National Arts Journalism Program has been an invaluable resource not only to the profession of criticism but to the practice of the arts. It is one of those essential university initiatives that provide a public face to academic ventures, and make the non-university community aware that we have a responsibility to the commonweal beyond teaching courses. I myself have been a grateful recipient of NAJP support during a time when I was writing a number of longer articles, and preparing for a book, that could not have been accomplished without its help."
Robert Brustein, theatre critic (NAJP 2002-2003)

"Arts writing practiced as daily journalism tends to accumulate experience, but not necessarily wisdom. The fellowship program at NAJP is precisely the pace-breaker that allows good writers and editors to become great ones."
Willa Conrad, music critic, Newark Star-Ledger (NAJP 2003-2004)

"Every single sentence I write as an arts journalist is influenced by my fellowship year."
Jeffrey Day, arts writer, The State, Columbia, SC (NAJP 1998-1999)

"More profound than any mere sabbatical, the program offers the leisure and the leeway to investigate new directions while stimulating the sometimes jaded neurons of the mid-career critic. I continue to find friendships and connections made through the NAJP to be extremely important in my work."
Steve Dollar, arts writer, New York (NAJP 1997-1998)

"The National Arts Journalism Program was an unqualified blessing for me. It was the kind of opportunity writers dream of: leaving deadlines and pitches behind, talking to a group of talented peers who you aren't competing with, and the academic atmosphere that values discovery of fact over instant delivery of information. Having access to Columbia's classes was possibly the best aspect. Whatever you were too restless or young to get as a teenager was there to be done right the second time. It was nine months of bliss."
Sasha Frere-Jones, pop critic, The New Yorker

"The generosity of the award, which placed the considerable resources of a great university at my disposal, along with the unforgettable generosity of spirit on the part of the program's administrators, staff members and professional friends and, of course, on the part of my fellow NAJP Fellows, provided an encouraging and nurturing setting in which to do research on specific topics of interest in the arts and in which to polish one's skills or gain new knowledge in various subject areas. As a direct result of my NAJP experience, I was able to better pursue and land certain professional assignments with a fresh outlook and a sense of clarity and purpose whose value has been inestimable."
Edward M. Gomez, arts and design critic, (NAJP, 2001-2002)

"NAJP opened doors for me that I might never have found on my own. The courses I attended at Columbia had a direct impact on the trajectory of my writing life. The cornucopia of performance and art experiences I sought out during my fellowship year have reshaped my aesthetic and critical sensibilities in a permanent way.
Minal Hajratwala, writer, San Francisco (NAJP 2000-2001)

It would be hard to overstate how much I benefited professionally from my yearlong fellowship at the National Arts Journalism Program. I was able to immerse myself in studying the history of architecture, both from professors at Columbia and in the endless architectural classroom right outside my door – New York City. I was able to make the professional contacts that allowed me, almost immediately after finishing the fellowship, to begin writing fulltime about architecture and design. Any journalist will tell you that his or her job, too often, requires moving right from one deadline straight to the next, with little if any time for real reflection or in-depth research; this is true not just for hard-news reporters but also for arts writers and critics. The value of the NAJP is that its fellowships were designed from the start to provide just that sort of time, along with a supporting institutional framework at Columbia that gives the program some shape and structure. At the time the experience of stepping away from the day-to-day and week-to-week grind felt like a luxury — and I suppose, looking back, it was. But it was the sort of luxury that gave my critical sensibility a more secure grounding and helped my writing in innumerable ways."
Christopher Hawthorne, architecture critic, The Los Angeles Times (NAJP 1998-1999)

"My Senior Fellowship at NAJP was a vital support in making it possible for me to undertaken and complete my magnum opus, Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall (forthcoming from Norton in March 2005). Recently, I was one of the principal advisors to an NEA music critics’ institute created by NAJP and funded by the NEA via a Chairman’s Initiative. The critics’ institute was a remarkable experience for all concerned, unquestionably a template for future such enterprises. And we need an NAJP. The topic of my recent address to a Music Critics Association conference was that the current classical-music crisis is also a classical-music-critics’ crisis."
Joseph Horowitz, historian and classical music critic (NAJP 200-2001)

"NAJP gave me the opportunity to recognize my role within the entire arts community, and the more I saw myself as a part of it – not apart from it – the more committed I became to covering it with equal parts passion, respect and accuracy. By providing a live, ongoing forum, the NAJP has essentially created a powerful community of arts writers, one that's more effective in promoting arts and culture than several multi-million dollar PR firms combined."
Cynthia Joyce, writer and editor, New Orleans (NAJP 2000-2001)

"NAJP is the only national voice advocating for arts journalism in the United States. At a time when American culture is straining under rapid change, the role of arts journalists is more and more important. NAJP has become an essential advocate for quality cultural journalism, and the leader in the education and development of cultural journalists. Personally, I can say that my year at NAJP was a pivotal experience in my own career. My year at Columbia allowed me to step away from the pressures of daily journalism long enough to plant the seeds for creating ArtsJournal.com, which has become the leading aggregator of cultural journalism on the internet. NAJP is an unmatched incubator of voices in a culture of ideas."
Douglas McLennan, founder and editor, ArtsJournal.com (NAJP, 1996-1997)

"I returned from my NAJP fellowship a completely new writer. My editors — and many readers — noticed the change. I came back with a stronger voice, a newfound self-confidence and a greater proficiency in three subject areas I focused on during my fellowship: theater, dance and visual arts. For writers from large newspapers, the NAJP is a great opportunity to further explore specialized subjects. But my paper, a medium-sized daily, doesn't have the resources to employ a large number of staff critics. I'm expected to be able to write with authority about a large range of subjects. For me, the NAJP was an incredibly broadening experience."
Donald Munro, movie critic, Fresno Bee (NAJP 2002-2003)

"A once in a lifetime opportunity came for a hardened, nearly-cynical arts journalist to create and imagine in an outside-the-box format. As a Filipina-American there were few venues to replenish my wealth of knowledge, until I chose to study the fine and entertainment arts in the American South at and through the University of Georgia. There are few things that have enriched me emotionally, spiritually and academically as the NAJP program."
Louinn Lota, reporter, Associated Press (NAJP 1994-1995)

"As the art critic at Newsweek, I had a three-month NAJP senior fellowship in 1998. It broke the compartmentalization (hell, isolation!) that a sole critic in an arts field can experience at a mass magazine, and put me in close touch with younger writers, in the different areas of the arts, from different kinds of publications."
Peter Plagens, art critic, Newsweek, Artforum (NAJP 1998-1999)

"My book Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me, published in May 2004, was widely and (generally) warmly reviewed, and it was recently nominated by the National Book Critics Circle as the year’s best book of criticism. I can’t exaggerate the part the National Arts Journalism Program played in its coming to fruition. Most important was the support I received from my colleagues in the program, who formed the first audience for Sontag & Kael and whose input proved decisive in shaping the book. In other words, the NAJP was vital to Sontag & Kael. Without its assistance, I would still be working on the book now and, I imagine, for some time to come."
Craig Seligman, author, New York (NAJP 2001-2002)

"To put it simply, the NAJP changed my life. The opportunity to study both arts and journalism in an in-depth way was invaluable to my growth as a writer and producer. And for an arts writer, nothing can compare to the experience of New York City. The NAJP has a direct influence on the quality of arts writing today. As long as it exists, it ensures that good art and good journalism continually progress. In a country where the arts increasingly struggle for financing and attention, the NAJP’s mission is both vital and necessary."
Lily Tung, TV arts reporter, San Francisco (NAJP 2003-2004)

"It's typical of my year spent with the program that, entering it, I had no plans to do something like adapting George Orwell's book, Homage to Catalonia, to the stage – but I did. I would simply never get the time or the freedom to do such a thing while on my regular job as book critic for The Dallas Morning News. It's typical of my year that we didn't know, as a group, that we'd wind up making a rare trip to Havana, Cuba — a trip I'm still using in my reviews of Latin American material. And when I applied for the fellowship, I had no inkling of what a boost to my knowledge of publishing Samuel Freedman's course on non-fiction book writing would turn out to be. Upon my return, I wrote a Sunday column extolling this remarkable ‘boot camp’ for writers, but I still cannot say enough about how I put its lessons to use. "
Jerome Weeks, book columnist, Dallas Morning News (NAJP 1999-200)

"The fellowship promotes important research and debate about aspects of culture that are neglected in the general media but warrant wider public attention. This was very much the case with the April 2003 conference on cultural diplomacy, held just as Americans began reexamining ways the United States might recast its image abroad and do more to promote international understanding. The fellowship fosters a rich and enduring sense of community that in the end benefits readers as well as writers of arts journalism."
Michael Wise, contributing editor, Architecture magazine (NAJP 2002-2003)

NAJP : Fellowships : Alumni Testimonials