A woman in a black blouse stands in front of an out-of-focus background.
News Story

Soyica Colbert Awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

Soyica Colbert, former interim dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in theatre arts and performance studies, which will support the development of her forthcoming book At Freedom’s Gate

“I am filled with gratitude to my family, mentors, recommenders, students, thought-partners and friends for supporting my work and making it possible,” said Colbert. “Without a community, none of my work would be possible”

Colbert is one of 171 fellows in this year’s cohort of awardees, which includes School of Foreign Service professor Emily Mendenhall. Every year since 1925, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awards fellowships to outstanding and exceptional academics, artists and thinkers. It is considered  one of academia’s most prestigious and sought-after grants, 

“Since its establishment, the Foundation has granted nearly $400 million in fellowships to over 18,000 individuals, among whom are more than 125 Nobel laureates, members of all the national academies, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Fields Medal, Turing Award, Bancroft Prize, National Book Award and other internationally recognized honors,” the foundation said in a release.  

Excavating a Unique History

A book cover featuring Lorraine Hansberry holding a cigarette with a strong light on her face.

In her most recent book, Radical Vision, Colbert chronicled the life of Lorraine Hansberry, the playwright, artist and activist best known for her play A Raisin in the Sun. In the acclaimed biography, Colbert explored Hansberry’s connection to the 1960s Greenwich Village art scene, a melting pot for free-thinkers, artists, radicals and some of the 20th century’s biggest names. 

Radical Vision narrates a life at the intersection of art and politics,” said Colbert. “I argue that, for Hansberry, the theater operated as a rehearsal room for her political and intellectual work.”

While researching Hansbury’s life, Colbert stumbled upon the Village Gate, a nightclub at the corner of Thompson and Bleecker Streets that operated as a de facto center of the cultural and political scene. 

“So many visionaries – Hansberry, Maya Angelou, Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone, Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Dick Gregory, and Richard Pryor –  frequented the same place and benefited from overlapping conditions to enable their work,” said Colbert. “I want to excavate just what made that ground so fertile for so many artists. What types of institutions cultivate genius?”

Colbert’s forthcoming book, At Freedom’s Gate, explores the political, cultural and economic dynamics that drew so many luminaries to the Village Gate 

At Freedom’s Gate explores how an artistic institution cultivates creative and political communities and new ways of life during the classical phase of the civil rights movement,” said Colbert.  

A multi-hyphenate in her own right, Colbert occupies many roles on the Hilltop and beyond. She was recently named the university’s first vice president for interdisciplinary initiatives and is the Idol Family Professor of Performing Arts and African American Studies. Colbert currently serves on the artistic team at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC. 

-by Hayden Frye (C’17)

Related News

Faculty Research
Performing Arts