Art professor and ceramicist wins prestigious United States Artists Fellowship

By Shelby Skumanich

Del Harrow, ceramicist and associate professor in the Department of Art and Art History at CSU, was one of 50 artists to win the 2020 United States Artists Fellowship. This award honors creative accomplishments and supports ongoing artistic and professional development for artists. He received the $50,000 award in the Crafts category and is joined by Jennifer Ling Datchuk, Wendy Maruyama, Aaron McIntosh, and Linda Sikora. The awards were announced on Jan. 22.

“In addition to the financial support, which is amazing, this kind of recognition provides a lot of confidence, time, and space to work towards larger and longer goals,” said Harrow.

Artists are nominated anonymously and evaluated on things like their creative vision and influence on their profession and discipline. Since the award started in 2006, United States Artists has distributed more than $27 million to more than 550 artists living and working across the country. The money can be used as the artist sees fit, whether it be to create new work, pay rent, reduce debt, obtain health care, or support their families. 

“We believe strongly that the arts are critically important to the well-being of our communities and at the heart of the arts is the individual artist,” United States Artists Board Chair Ed Henry said in a released statement. “We are proud to offer this unrestricted award to encourage artists to explore the possibilities of their practices and support their livelihoods.” 

Harrow was aware of the organization, its mission, and the nomination-based award before he won, as he has nominated people in the past, and was a finalist a few years ago. 

“It also feels like a recognition of a level of quality across the whole Department of Art and Art History,” said Harrow. “We have a really strong program which is also often kind of ‘under the radar.’ When people come to visit, they are really impressed by the work we are doing. I’ve benefited a great deal from just trying to hold my own work to the standards of my colleagues here at CSU.”

Harrow currently teaches sculpture, digital fabrication, and ceramics in the Department of Art and Art History. Harrow’s ceramic sculptures use traditional ceramic techniques combined with computer-aided design, parametric modeling, and digital fabrication. His work has been exhibited recently at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Denver Art Museum, Arizona State University Art Museum, and Museum of Fine Art in Boston. His work is in the permanent collection of the Arizona State University Art Museum, and he recently completed a permanent installation for the U.S. State Department for a new embassy in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. 

In his studio, Del Harrow hand builds clay vessels that utilize texture from digital models.
In his studio, Del Harrow hand-builds clay vessels that use texture from digital models.

“Associate Professor Harrow is the first faculty member ever within the department to be selected to receive a USA Fellowship. It is extremely competitive and is awarded to those identified as visionary artists within their field,” said Suzanne Faris, department chair. “The USA Fellowship is unique in that it financially supports the creative path of an artist, but the funding isn’t linked to a particular project. It allows the artist to decide how to best use these funds to support their practice. This is a very exciting milestone in Associate Professor Harrow’s career!”

Harrow plans to use the award to finish a studio space in Old Town that he and his wife, Sanam Emami, associate professor in pottery at CSU, have been working on for some time. They’ve encountered several unanticipated expenses and finishing the studio will give them centralized work and storage space. 

In June, a formal awards ceremony and reception for the Fellowship recipients will be held at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan.  

“Congratulations to Professor Harrow for this outstanding recognition,” College of Liberal Arts Dean Ben Withers said. “The USA Fellowship honors not only his talent and past success but also his tremendous potential. This is the latest addition to a growing tradition of faculty noted for their creative excellence at CSU.”

The United States Artists organization thinks about art in a broad way, and the categories for the award encompass many disciplines, including Architecture and Design, Film and Media, Writing, Visual and Traditional Art as well as Music and Performing Arts. The organization actively fundraises every year and is supported by a broad range of philanthropic foundations, companies, and individuals committed to cultivating contemporary culture in the United States.