In the fall of 1995 the Nobel-Prize-winning poet Joseph Brodsky approached the mayor of Rome to urge the creation of a Russian Academy in Rome. The Academy he envisioned would bring Russian artists, writers, and scholars to join colleagues from around the world who came to Rome, as their peers had for centuries, seeking inspiration in that ancient city.
Brodsky reminded the mayor of the historic links between Russia and Italy: “Italian culture is indeed the mother of Russian aesthetics,” he wrote, “and for seventy of this century’s years this connection between the mother and her child was artificially severed.” As Russia emerged from decades of isolation under Communism Brodsky urged: “Italy was a revelation to the Russians; now it can become the source of their renaissance.”
The Joseph Brodsky Fellowship Fund was founded in the days after Brodsky’s death by a group of his friends in order to give this effort continuing life. This small group of friends consisted of Maria Sozzani Brodsky, Ann Kjellberg, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sir Isaiah Berlin, Robert Silvers, Dmitry Likhachev, Mstislav Rostropovich and Masha Vorobiov. The founders believed that putting artists at liberty in a vibrant city at the crossroads of world culture could nourish dynamic, inquiring intellectual life while honoring Brodsky’s legacy; they envisioned a living monument to the poet, embodying his memory in the creative life of the future rather than a statue or a plaque.
Changing times have only burnished the merit of Brodsky’s vision: It remains urgent today to maintain open communications among intellectuals, a shared connection with the roots of a common cultural heritage, and a means to honor integrity and independence in the arts.
Dozens of poets and artists—some revered, some young and unknown—have now travelled to Italy as Brodsky fellows, guests of the American Academy in Rome and other noted institutions. They testify in force to the strength of the experience in supporting their work and energizing them going forward.
The Joseph Brodsky Fellowship Fund is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.