Department of Art History and Art’s Maggie Popkin wins 2020–21 Rome Prize

Maggie Popkin

Maggie Popkin, the Robson Junior Professor and associate professor in the Department of Art History and Art, has won a 2020–21 Andrew Heiskell Rome Prize, making her the first faculty member from Case Western Reserve University to do so. These highly competitive fellowships support advanced independent work and research in the arts and humanities.

Popkin won the Rome Prize for her project, “Souvenirs and the Experience of Empire in Ancient Rome.” She is investigating souvenirs from the Roman Empire commemorating places, people and events that straddled spheres of religion, spectacle, leisure and politics. 

She will receive a stipend, workspace, and room and board for five months, beginning January 2021, at the American Academy in Rome’s 11-acre campus.

Popkin calls this honor a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live and work in Rome as part of a vibrant community of scholars, artists, writers and architects.

“The Rome Prize will give me the time to complete my book on ancient Roman souvenirs and their relation to how people experienced empire in antiquity,” Popkin said.

“It will enable me to explore Italian collections and archaeological sites that are critical to my work. The Rome Prize will afford me the opportunity to engage in the wide-ranging, interdisciplinary back and forth with my co-fellows that not only will make my current project the best it can be but will also suggest exciting avenues for future research. I have no doubt that it will be a transformational experience for me as a scholar.”

Popkin’s book is “nothing short of brilliant,” said Elizabeth Bolman, the Elsie B. Smith Professor in the Liberal Arts, professor of art history and chair of the Department of Art History and Art. “It is a supremely original concept, and provides a fascinating glimpse of a part of the Roman world which is typically inaccessible to art historians: everyday people and athletic events. The Rome Prize is the highest honor in her field. We are fortunate to have Professor Popkin at CWRU, and look forward to reading her second book.”

Popkin specializes in ancient Roman art and architecture. Her research interests include the relationship between architecture, spectacle and ritual in the Roman world, and the impact of visual culture on individual and social remembering in the classical world.

Rome Prize winners are selected annually by independent juries of distinguished artists and scholars through a national competition. This year, the 22 Rome Prize winners were selected from more than 1,000 applicants.

“I’m absolutely delighted that Prof. Maggie Popkin won the Rome Prize,” said Steven Ellis, associate professor in the Department of Classics at University of Cincinnati and a member of the jury for the award. “We fielded a record number of applications this year, and Prof. Popkin shone at every stage of the highly competitive selection process. More than an excellent scholar with a terrific and original research project, Prof. Popkin combines an intellectual curiosity with a hunger for interdisciplinary engagement that is everything we look for in our Rome Prize Fellows. She thus brings so much to the unique community of scholars, artists, writers, and composers who make up the American Academy in Rome. I’m so very glad for both her and the Academy.”