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Tracy K. Smith selected for Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative


Marguerite d'Aprile-Smith    
Director of Communications
Lewis Center for the Arts

Tracy K. Smith, poet and assistant professor in creative writing at the Lewis Center for the Arts, was one of six international artists selected for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative is an international philanthropic program that seeks out rising artists from around the world and brings them together with great masters for a year of individual mentoring and creative collaboration. Smith, the only artist selected from the United States, was chosen by mentor Hans Magnus Enzensberger, a provocative essayist also regarded as Germany’s most important contemporary poet.

Smith holds degrees from Harvard and Columbia, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University. She has taught creative writing at Princeton since 2005. Her first collection of poetry, The Body’s Question (2003), was awarded the Cave Canem Prize by Kevin Young for the best first book by an African-American poet, and her second collection, Duende (2007), received the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. Smith’s third collection of poetry, Life on Mars, is coming out in 2011.

Smith said she will now undertake a prose project with Enzensberger’s guidance. “I have the opportunity to work with someone who has 50 more years of experience in life and art,” Smith said. “I want to use his guidance to do something new for myself as a writer.”

The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative was founded in 2002 and is based at the Rolex headquarters in Geneva. Young artists from around the world are nominated to work with major artists in the fields of dance, film, literature, music, theater and visual arts. Trisha Brown, Brian Eno, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Anish Kapoor, Peter Sellars and Zhang Yimou are the 2010-2011 mentors that selected the six protégés this year which include: Lee Serle (Australia); Ben Frost (Australian living in Iceland); Tracy K. Smith (United States); Nicholas Hlobo (South Africa); Maya Zbib (Lebanon); and Annemarie Jacir (Palestinian living in Jordan). Artists formerly serving as mentors in the Rolex program include John Baldesssari, David Hockney, Toni Morrison, Martin Scorsese, Kate Valk and Pinchas Zukerman.

The six selected protégés will each create their own uniquely tailored program with their mentors. Each protégé will receive an initial grant of $25,000 plus help with travel and accommodations, and are eligible for an additional $25,000 towards the cost of creating a project following their mentoring year. Mentors receive an honorarium of $50,000. For more information visit:

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