Diane Dammeyer Fellowship in Photographic Arts and Social Issues

The Diane Dammeyer Fellowship in Photographic Arts and Social Issues creates a space for a socially engaged photographer to produce a compelling and dynamic body of work highlighting human rights and social issues.

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Columbia College Chicago and Heartland Alliance, two internationally recognized institutions with Chicago roots dating back more than 120 years, partner in hosting the Diane Dammeyer Fellowship in Photographic Arts and Social Issues. The fellowship is a unique public commitment to socially engaged art, combining Columbia's dedication to academic excellence and developing authentic, creative voices with Heartland Alliance's bold history of advocating for the rights of the world's most vulnerable populations.


  • About Heartland Alliance

    The leading anti-poverty organization in the Midwest, Heartland Alliance believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to improve their lives. Each year, it helps ensure this opportunity for nearly one million people around the world who are homeless, living in poverty, or seeking safety. Because the causes of poverty, injustice, and lack of opportunity are interrelated and interlocking, Heartland Alliance’s programs are similarly comprehensive and integrated, allowing unusual synergy in meeting its participants’ needs. In addition to direct service, Heartland Alliance partners with lawmakers and organizations to shape public policies that fit the needs of everyone, ensuring that even the most vulnerable can realize a brighter future.

  • About Diane Dammeyer

    Diane Dammeyer discovered her passion for socially engaged photography when she was a student at Columbia College Chicago, not long after retiring from a successful career in real estate. At the same time that she was taking classes, she was also serving on the board of Heartland Alliance. "I needed to learn a lot about the programs at Heartland, so I decided to go around and photograph them and include them in my assignments," said Dammeyer. Shortly thereafter, Dammeyer took her camera on the road, traveling internationally with Heartland Alliance to document the work they did in communities all over the globe.

    It was this transformative life experience that made Dammeyer want to give back and fund a photography fellowship centered on social issues. "I just think it was a wonderful gift to me, to go to Columbia and to have my eyes opened," she said. Her hope is that the fellowship provides an opportunity for a photographer to elevate our collective awareness of social, economic, and cultural issues and to inspire positive social changes.

Application Information

  • About the Fellowship

    This postgraduate fellowship creates an opportunity for a socially engaged photographer to immerse themselves in the community of Heartland Alliance and to produce a new, original, and compelling body of photographic work that speaks to the human rights and social issues revealed through these experiences. By engaging with the Heartland Alliance community of participants and practitioners, the fellowship allows the artist to create a true connection between subject, audience, and community. This serves the larger goal of the fellowship, which is to use photographic practice to elevate our collective awareness of social, economic, and cultural issues and to inspire positive social change.

    In addition to their work with the Heartland Alliance community in the greater Chicago area, the fellow will also spend significant time at Columbia College Chicago, where they will be mentored by a Photography Department faculty member and will work with Columbia students. The fellow will also have a Heartland Alliance project sponsor dedicated to aid their immersion in the Heartland community and to provide valuable feedback during the nine-month project. The fellowship will culminate with a public presentation, exhibition and/or publication of the fellow’s newly created body of work at the completion of the fellowship period.

    Because of the dynamic nature of the fellowship, a full-time commitment is required during the academic year (September to May). Fellowship hours will vary, as will the activities in which the fellow will be immersed. It is expected that the fellow will reside in Chicago during the term of the award.

    A $25,000 stipend will be awarded to support the fellow’s work. Talented individuals who have completed an MFA in photography or in another related creative field and who are committed to active immersion and participation with Heartland Alliance and Columbia College Chicago are encouraged to apply.

    The fellowship is supported by former Columbia student, Diane Dammeyer, whose experience as a photographer for Heartland Alliance inspired her to create both an undergraduate scholarship and a postgraduate fellowship in the hope that emerging artists would conceive of creative ways to use their skills to help a nonprofit organization better realize its goals.

    Read more about our Past Dammeyer Fellowship recipients

  • How to Apply

    Only complete fellowship applications submitted by the May 20, 2020 deadline will be reviewed by the Fellowship Committee. Candidates must submit the following materials:

    • Online application
    • Background narrative
    • Project narrative
    • Work sample of 20 images
    • Résumé
    • Official transcript from institution where graduate degree was earned
    • Contact information for two professional references
  • Eligibility
    • Candidates must have completed an MFA in photography or in another related field with demonstrated, significant photographic practice by the start date of the fellowship. Graduates of the Columbia College Chicago MFA Photography program are encouraged to apply.
    • Candidates must exhibit a strong interest in working in an immersive environment at Heartland Alliance and developing a creative portfolio for the purpose of elevating awareness of social, economic and cultural issues through engagement with Heartland Alliance’s participants and programs.
    • Candidates must exhibit a strong interest in engaging with the Columbia College Chicago Department of Photography faculty and students through workshops, lectures or other on-campus opportunities.
    • Candidates must demonstrate the ability to meet the full-time commitment for the duration of the fellowship, and the ability to engage and adapt to a schedule that changes and evolves based on opportunities for immersion at Columbia College Chicago and at Heartland Alliance’s Chicago-based programs.
    • Candidates must not be enrolled full time or part time in academic program when applying
    • Candidates must be available to be in Chicago for the duration of the fellowship, September - May
  • Review Criteria and Selection Process

    The successful candidate will demonstrate:

    • Artistic excellence and artistic merit through an outstanding portfolio of photography that engages beyond the traditional representations of photography with social, economic and cultural issues aligning with Heartland Alliance’s areas of interest.

    • The ability to work collaboratively in a community-based setting.

    • The ability to communicate effectively on a regular basis with the Columbia faculty mentor and Heartland Alliance project sponsor.

    • The potential to make a significant artistic and cultural impact both within the partner organizations and in the larger community.

  • Fellowship Award

    The fellow will receive:

    • One $25,000 stipend, distributed in quarterly installments, to cover living expenses, all materials and all final exhibition/presentation/publication expenses.

    • Access to Columbia College Chicago Photography Department facilities and a workspace.

    • Access to workspace at Heartland Alliance.

  • Notification Process

    Finalists will be notified by the Fellowship Administrator to arrange an interview, with a final decision announced shortly thereafter.

  • FAQs

    Q: What is the expected time commitment of the fellow to Heartland Alliance and Columbia College Chicago during the fellowship?

    A: Though the time spent at Heartland Alliance and Columbia College Chicago may vary from week to week, the fellow is expected to spend an average total of 25 hours per week engaged in the work of the fellowship. The fellow will divide their time evenly between Heartland, engaging with participants and practitioners, and Columbia, working with students and in the studio.

    Q: Do I need to be a Columbia College Chicago alum to apply?

    A: No, applicants do not need to be alumni of Columbia College Chicago. Alumni of any MFA program may apply.

    Q: Is the fellowship open to international applicants?

    A: Yes, this fellowship is open to international applicants. If an international applicant is awarded the fellowship, then they are responsible for arranging their own visas, international and domestic transportation, and local accommodations in Chicago.

    Q: What does the $25,000 stipend cover?

    A: The $25,000 stipend covers all expenses associated with the fellowship, including but not limited to: transportation, accommodations, living expenses, arts/photo materials and final exhibition/project expenses. No additional funds beyond the $25,000 stipend are available if the fellow’s costs exceed this total.

    Q: How is the stipend paid to the fellow?

    A: The stipend is paid in four equal installments: Sept.15, Dec. 1, March 1 and following the completion of final exhibition/presentation in May.

    Q: Can the fellow have a full-time or part-time job during the fellowship?

    A: The fellow is expected to make the fellowship their primary focus and dedicate an average of 25 hours per week to creating their work and engaging at Heartland and Columbia.  This would make it very difficult to maintain any other significant job or commitment during the academic year.    

    Q: Can an applicant continue with their graduate studies during the fellowship?

    A: No, the fellow must have completed their MFA by the start date of the fellowship and cannot be enrolled in any full-time or part-time academic program for the duration of the fellowship.

    Q: Can the fellowship and stipend be used to complete an applicant’s existing or ongoing photography project?

    A: No, this is not a completion grant. The fellow must create a new, original body of work as part of this fellowship.

    Q: What disciplines can the applicant’s MFA be in?

    A: The applicant can have received an MFA in any discipline but must be able to demonstrate through the application a proficiency in the use of photography in their artistic practice.