2017 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow Estefania Puerta has won the 2023-2024 Rome Prize, awarded annually to 36 American artists and scholars by the American Academy in Rome. All the Rome Prize recipients will receive a stipend and will live and work on the Academy’s campus in Rome.
Estefania’s award will last for six months and begin in February of 2024. It will also place her alongside past recipients that she admires including David Hammons, Ana Mendieta, Rochelle Feinstien, Anna Betbeze, and Philip Guston.
“The Rome Prize is a pivotal moment in my practice that affirms the work and commitment that I have to my art,” Estefania said. “This is a gift of time and place and I feel really honored that I get to be part of this award’s history.”
While the Rome Prize is traditionally given to mid-career artists, Estefania decided to apply saying “it was a long shot but everything I've ever applied for and received has felt like a long shot. My mom instilled in me the mentality of reaching for something even if you don't think you will get it because you never know!”
As an immigrant from Colombia, this mentality served Estefania while she was growing up in Boston. She pursued a degree in community and international development at the University of Vermont. Having discovered her passion for art at a young age, Estefania decided to focus on art as an MFA student at Yale after receiving United States Citizenship. She received the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship in graduate school.
“What I love about Rome is the way everything feels so touched into existence. The hand is so present in the city. So much of the city is carved, chiseled, gilded, and painted by hand and we are left with how time deals with this kind of touch, the shifting of forms and materials still so present in a contemporary city,” Estefania shared.
“I am really interested in connecting with the city and thinking of its Baroque excess as it relates to my use of repetition and ornamentation in my work,” Estefania said. “The ways in which ancient Rome created elaborate works of art echoes to the present moment and how we as immigrants contribute and impact the world today.”
“The Rome Prize is a major milestone in my life, and I can't help but think of where I come from, my ancestors, my teachers—of all forms, my friends and family, and my artwork as a reflection of the powerful force that got me here. I am excited to bring who I am to this place,” Estefania reflected after receiving the award.
Estefania will have access to the Academy’s classes, lectures, tours, and day trips. She looks forward to letting the community guide her use of time, while also taking advantage of the time for introspection and exploration.