Richmond, Va. (VR) – Studies show that only 1% of preservation professionals are African American. Through a grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Preservation Virginia is launching a Fellows program to increase the network of Black preservation professionals and expand interest in historic preservation careers.
This pilot program, launching in 2023, will begin with three African American participants, including both students and nontraditional preservationists — community members who are undertaking preservation efforts without formal training. Nontraditional preservationists are often addressing local issues and need support and education to preserve African American history and historic sites. Preservation Virginia aims to grow the program each year to include more participants, expanding the number of African American sites that can be preserved and the number of trained preservationists to steward them.
“This initiative was inspired by Brent Leggs, executive director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund,” said Elizabeth S. Kostelny, Preservation Virginia CEO. “At our African American Historic Resources Conference in 2020, Brent challenged Virginia to be a leader in attracting more Black students to historic preservation and preserving more African American historic sites in the Commonwealth.”
Planning for the Fellows program began in 2021 through the guidance of an advisory committee of African American leaders. The 10-week curriculum includes key interdisciplinary principles — anthropology, architecture, sociology, urban and regional planning, and finance — that relate to historic preservation, then apply them to customized independent study projects. The program will combine coursework, an in-person residency, field trips and conference attendance. Participants will be supported by a designated Preservation Virginia staff member and practitioner mentor.
Leading this initiative at Preservation Virginia is Dr. Lisa Winn Bryan, Community Engagement Manager. “We have a serious role in facilitating greater diversity in the field of preservation with more significant consideration to the African American communities in Virginia,” said Dr. Winn Bryan. “As the program continues after the pilot year, a network of alumni will be established, creating a support group for African American preservationists.”
Individuals interested in applying for the Fellows program can do so online at www.preservationvirginia.org/ fellowsprogram. Hard copy applications can be mailed as well. Applications are due by December 30th, 2022, with the first class beginning in February 2023.