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Black Woman Who Helped Raise $150M to Preserve U.S. History Receives Prestigious Award in Rome, Italy

The American Academy in Rome has awarded Monica Rhodes the Adele Chatfield-Taylor Rome Prize in historic preservation and conservation. Rhodes was among 37 Rome Prize winners selected out of nearly 1,000 applicants and is one of few academically trained African American preservationists, with 15 years of experience protecting the nation’s history.

For over 125 years, the American Academy in Rome has awarded the Rome Prize to support innovative and cross-disciplinary work in the arts and humanities. Each year, the prize is awarded to about 30 artists and scholars who represent the highest standard of excellence and who are in the early or middle stages of their careers. 

Throughout her career, she has helped raise and manage over $150 million, directed preservation activities in 46 states, and completed projects in over 100 national parks. Rhodes developed the first national program centered on diversifying the preservation trades and the heritage industry. Rhodes led efforts to reinstitute substantial programs in the nation to preserve national parks that tell stories related to African American, LatinX, and Women’s history.

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“I am honored to be here and thrilled to get the opportunity to leverage this experience to help shape the future of preservation. My work is grounded in the pursuit to ensure every aspect of American history is accounted for, and this honor is a steppingstone to making sure that happens,” said Rhodes, 38.

Rhodes received her undergraduate degree in History at the University of Tulsa and a Master’s degree in African American Studies at Temple University, completing her studies with a second Master’s degree in Historic Preservation. Currently, she is a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University working to expand the field of preservation to new audiences.

As a Rome Prize winner, Rhodes will receive a stipend, workspace, and room and board at the Academy’s 11-acre campus on the Janiculum Hill in Rome, Italy, beginning in September.

“This year’s Rome Prize winners and Italian Fellows represent the diversity of the United States, and their projects build on the Academy’s commitment to the global impact of the arts and humanities,” said Mark Robbins, American Academy in Rome President and CEO. “These fellowships are transformative, and we look forward to seeing the ways this experience is translated in the work to come.”

Nationwide, the Rome Prize competition received 909 applications, representing 47 U.S. states and territories and 19 different countries. Thirty-three Rome Prizes were awarded to 37 individuals (four prizes are collaborations), representing an acceptance rate of 3.6 percent. This group of Rome Prize winners is among the most diverse in the Academy’s history.

Approximately 46 percent of the winners identify as persons of color, representing a new high for this demographic. Twenty-four percent of the Rome Prize winners were born outside the United States. Ages of the incoming group range from 27 to 67, with an average age of 43.

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Written by PH

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