From AAR Resident Jessica Helfand, Portraits of the Fellows’ Class of 2010

Jessica Helfand, self-portrait. Gouache on paper. 4.5 x 2.4 inches

Since the Ides of March, Jessica Helfand and William Drenttel have been Henry Wolf Residents in Graphic Design at the American Academy in Rome. But it was just a few short weeks ago that Helfand—an author, columnist and lecturer on graphic design—took on the enormous task of commemorating in gouache on paper the entire AAR Fellows class of  2010, as well as more than a few members of the staff. Jessica finished the portraits—based on iPhone photos taken by her daughter Fiona—just in time for the Friday 28 May rosette ceremony, in which the Fellows formally receive the designation “FAAR”.

In a recent article published by Felt and Wire, Jessica Helfand discusses her thoughts on these portraits, plus a series of more abstract line studies that she simultaneously executed. Ironically, Jessica will miss the Academy graduation: just before the Rome ceremony Jessica, Bill, Fiona and her brother Malcolm fly to Spain, the last stop of the family’s year-long 29,000 trek around the world.

Jessica Helfand, portrait of William Drenttel. Gouache on paper. 4.5 x 2.4 inches

Jessica Helfand is a partner, with William Drenttel, in Winterhouse, a design studio in Northwest Connecticut. Their work focuses on publishing and editorial development; new media; and furthering cultural, educational and literary institutions. Helfand and Drenttel are also co-founders of Design Observer, the must-read blog about design and visual culture.

Helfand is currently Senior Critic at Yale School of Art and is the author of several books, most recently Scrapbooks: An American History (Yale University Press, 2008). William Drenttel is a senior faculty fellow at the Yale School of Management, and president emeritus of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. He is currently the design director of Teach For All, an international initiative of Teach For America working on education innovation in 10 countries. Here you can read more about Jessica and Bill.

But perhaps it’s time to move on to the main task at hand, Jessica’s astonishing tribute to the 2009/10 Fellows of the American Academy in Rome. (And stay tuned over the next month for the staff portraits!)



Lars Lerup Arnold W. Brunner Rome Prize; with Eva Sarraga

Kiel Moe Gorham P. Stevens Rome Prize


Russell Maret Rolland Rome Prize; with Annie Schlechter

Historic Preservation and Conservation

Matthew Bronski National Endowment for the Arts Rome Prize; [not pictured: Erin Graham]

Jon Calame Booth Family Rome Prize; with Anna Hepler

Landscape Architecture

Robert Hammond Garden Club of America Rome Prize


Peter Campion Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize, a gift of the Drue Heinz Trust/American Academy of Arts and Letters; with Amy Campion

Eliza Griswold John Guare Writer’s Fund Rome Prize, a gift of Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman

Musical Composition

Lisa Bielawa Frederic A. Juilliard/Walter Damrosch Rome Prize

Don Byron Samuel Barber Rome Prize

Visual Arts

Terry Adkins Jesse Howard, Jr./Jacob H. Lazarus-Metropolitan Museum of Art Rome Prize; [not pictured, Merele Williams]

Abigail Child Joseph H. Hazen Rome Prize

Nancy Davenport Abigail Cohen Rome Prize

Stephen Westfall Jules Guerin/John Armstrong Chaloner Rome Prize


Ancient Studies

[Not pictured: Jonathan P. Conant Andrew Heiskell Post-Doctoral Rome Prize; also Vanessa Corbera]

Scott Craver Emeline Hill Richardson/Samuel H. Kress Foundation Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize (year two of two); also Jennifer Craver

Lauren M. Kinnee Frank Brown/Samuel H. Kress Foundation/Helen M. Woodruff Fellowship of the Archaeological Institute of America Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize (year one of two)

Susanna McFadden Lily Auchincloss Post-Doctoral Rome Prize

Darian Totten Arthur Ross Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize

Lela Urquhart Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize

Medieval Studies

Aurelia D’Antonio Donald and Maria Cox Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize

Annie Montgomery Labatt Phyllis G. Gordan/Samuel H. Kress Foundation Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize (year two of two)

Jason Moralee Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Post-Doctoral Rome Prize; with Asha Nadkarni (at right), and daughter Shama (below)

Modern Italian Studies

Luca Caminati Paul Mellon/National Endowment for the Humanities Post-Doctoral Rome Prize; with Masha Salazkina (at left)

Eileen Ryan Marian and Andrew Heiskell Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize

Richard Wittman Millicent Mercer Johnsen Post-Doctoral Rome Prize

Renaissance and Early Modern Studies

Kathryn Blair Moore Samuel H. Kress Foundation Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize (year one of a two-year fellowship)

Nick Wilding Andrew W. Mellon Foundation/National Endowment for the Humanities Post-Doctoral Rome Prize; with Rena Diamond


3 Responses to “From AAR Resident Jessica Helfand, Portraits of the Fellows’ Class of 2010”

  1. prettybirdwearablejuju Says:

    These are so cool! Jessica, you are a genius.

  2. hollymorse Says:

    Jessica! These are brilliant and funny. You have been so incredibly busy. It’s breathtaking! Need to know what these are painted on. And kudos to the photographer who provided the source iPhone pix. Hugs all around!

  3. Author Updates | Significant Objects Says:

    […] 1) Jessica Helfand recently ended a 10-week residency at the American Academy in Rome, where she was painting. Results here and here and here. […]

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