Quick Guggenheim Awards Reception Review

I made a very quick trip to New York to attend the Guggenheim award reception and I’m glad I did. It was largely a reception where you walk around and talk with other fellows. Most of them were from 2024, but there were some from 2014, 2004, 1994, 1984 and I even met a poet from 1974! I appreciated the unstructured nature of the thing, and the opportunity to just talk with people. Halfway through the president made a few short remarks, and some of them were even a little inspiring (about the importance of arts and intellectual work). Then it was back to socializing. A model of an awards even for me. No endless reading of names or marching up on a stage to get something. Just a 3-hour party with a 3-minute speech.

I asked a fellow from 2004 whether and how the Guggenheim Fellowship changed her life. She replied that she would answer how it “should have” changed her life. Basically, she recommended we use as a cure for imposter syndrome. Anytime we doubt ourselves, or our right to do or say something, we should remember “well, at least I’m a Guggenheim Fellow.” I pass it along in case it is helpful to someone else.* I see no reason why once couldn’t insert other awards or achievements, though I do have to say that so far it seems the Guggenheim has a strange, prestigious pull on people.

I didn’t know what to expect, so I’m leaving this here for the search engines:

The reception took place at the Century Association in New York, which I learned is a famous private club. I’ve been in a few of these places in Montreal and am usually kind of allergic to them (don’t forget to scroll down to the date when they first admitted women!) but it was a nice site for the event.

Dress code was all over. I was really unsure of what to wear. Lots of people did standard academic (men in jackets and button-down shirts, women in the wider range of dress clothes). Though some people dressed truly fabulously, which I really appreciated and enjoyed, and might have done myself with some forethought. Some people came in very casual dress. Nobody cared at all, except to note when people were truly fabulously dressed. I went with the “nice shirt” approach since I figured I would die in a jacket. I was right. I would have died in a jacket.

The big surprise for me is a lot of people brought business cards. I did not because in my experience, the only people who want my card anymore (or have one) are in engineering or the tech world. So: bring business cards? Or other cards to give out?

Snacks were standard issue reception snacks. Unlikely any were vegan. I took a chance on a mushroom tart and–I dunno. But the person sitting next to me was very excited to learn I was vegan. I had to correct them that I was a “shitty vegan” and their reply was “you’re doing the best you can.” (I am probably not.)

But: afterwards. I went out to Mala Project, which is a fantastic Sichuan Restaurant with great vegan options. Fresh lotus root!

*A MacArthur Fellow–which is a much more exclusive club–once told me that winning it put a lot of pressure on them because they felt like every bit of work they did afterwards had to merit “genius” accolades. So these awards don’t automatically cure imposter syndrome. But it’s a nice thought.