Current News


I Learn America: Film Screenings and Community Conversations in Three Cities

"I Learn America: One High School, One School Year, Five New Americans," is a documentary that follows five immigrant teenagers over the course of one year as they strive to master English, adapt to families they haven’t seen in years, confront universal trials of adolescence, and search for a future they can claim as their own. French-born director Jean-Michel Dissard has ignited a national dialogue on immigration from New York to Honolulu through the film.

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Congrats to the 2014 Blavatnik Awardees!

In further evidence of immigrant successes in the STEM fields, foreign-born scientists accounted for a large percentage of the recently announced Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists.

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The Grand Design

On June 19, the Vilcek Foundation was pleased to partner with the Museum of Arts and Design to present “The Grand Design.” Hosted in The Theater at MAD, three winners of the 2014 Vilcek Prizes for Design — Neri Oxman, Mansour Ourasanah, and Quilian Riano — presented their works in a panel moderated by Glenn Adamson, Nanette L. Laitman Director at MAD.

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A Look at the 2015 Creative Promise Prize Applicants

The seventh annual call for Creative Promise Prize applications was open to professionals in the fields of biomedical science, and for the first time in arts — fashion. Two-hundred and fifty four scientists and fashion professionals answered the call, representing diverse fields in each respective industry and hailing from eighty different countries.

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Immigrants Win Big: Announcing the 2014 Simons Foundation Investigators and Fields Medalists

It’s been a tremendous couple of weeks for immigrants in the math and sciences! First, the 2014 Simons Foundation Investigators were announced on August 13. Of the 16 scientists and mathematicians selected for the prestigious five-year awards, 15 are based in the United States, and 12 are immigrants—that’s a whopping 75% of this year’s awardees!

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Marsden Hartley goes West!

The exhibition Marsden Hartley: The German Paintings 1913–1915, which opened in April at the Neue Nationalegalerie in Berlin, is now on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art! The show marks the California debut of “Portrait Arrangement No. 2,” 1912–13, and “Berlin Series No. 1,” 1913, from the Vilcek Collection.

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Grantee Spotlight: Lutheran Social Services of New York

For almost twenty years, the Immigration Legal Services Program of Lutheran Social Services of New York (LSSNY-ILP) has been providing professional legal services to thousands of clients across the five boroughs of New York City, regardless of religious affiliation. The program offers free or low-cost legal immigration services to clients from over one hundred countries, as well as connecting clients to services that help them become self-sufficient in their new communities.

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Vilcek Foundation Collections Expand with Pre-Columbian Artworks

Last spring, we launched an exciting new initiative by publishing three online art collections on Now we are proud to announce a new addition to the collections! The Vilcek Foundation Pre-Columbian Collection illustrates the wide range of artistic and cultural legacies that arose across the pre-Columbian world.

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Jan Vilcek, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa

Yesterday, the Graduate Center, City University of New York bestowed the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, on Jan Vilcek, president and co-founder of the Vilcek Foundation. Jan was recognized in his capacity as a biomedical scientist, educator, inventor, and philanthropist.

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Pardis Sabeti

Many children bristle at excessive instruction from older siblings, but growing up, Iranian-born Pardis Sabeti delighted in it. “As immigrants, my family and I weren’t very aware of the many educational and extracurricular opportunities in the U.S.,” Pardis says. “Instead, my parents improvised.” Pardis’ mother purchased a chalkboard and textbooks for her older sister Parisa to conduct an informal schoolhouse during the summer, and the result was a lifelong love of learning, especially in mathematics.

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Marsden Hartley hits the road!

In March, two Marsden Hartley paintings in the Vilcek Foundation’s American Modernist Collection earned quite a few frequent-flier miles, traveling from New York to Berlin for the exhibition Marsden Hartley: The German Paintings 1913–1915, at the Neue Nationalgalerie.

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Stavros Lomvardas

It was only recently that Stavros Lomvardas’ family accepted the fact that he was not going to be a dentist; the realization came when Stavros called his father in Greece with the news that he had been selected as a winner of the 2014 Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science. “He said, ‘Well, I guess you’re not becoming a dentist after all,’” Stavros remembers.

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Antonio Giraldez

Spanish-born Antonio Giraldez is fascinated with beginnings. Specifically, the developmental biologist and geneticist is intent on uncovering the molecular mechanisms that initiate the development of embryos after fertilization — the first step in the making of every animal.

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Thomas Jessell

“Sometimes you look back in life and think of the fortunate events that have happened that were beyond your control and design,” says British-born neuroscientist Thomas Jessell. For Tom, arriving at Harvard Medical School in 1978 for a Harkness postdoctoral fellowship with renowned scientist Gerald Fischbach was one such fortunate event.

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The Vilcek Foundation Celebrates the 2014 Vilcek Prizewinners

On Wednesday, April 2, the Vilcek Foundation hosted the winners of the 2014 Vilcek Prizes, members of the design and biomedical science communities, and other friends of the foundation at the 9th annual awards gala at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Quilian Riano

“Being an immigrant is about being in flux,” Quilian Riano says. “If you take that as a given, it gives you a freedom, because things are going to change, and you can think about whether and how you can shape that change.”

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Yasaman Hashemian

For Iranian-born interactive media designer Yasaman Hashemian, it’s all fun and games — but only at first glance. Currently a visiting scholar at the University of Southern California’s Creative Media & Behavioral Health Center, Yasaman designs and produces video and board games that educate users about health issues. It is vital to her, however, that her games are, above all, enjoyable. “It should be something fun,” Yasaman says. “If I design something people won’t play, then I will have completely failed.”

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Mansour Ourasanah

Mansour Ourasanah is an industrial designer by trade, but at heart, he’s a storyteller. This is something he’s known since his childhood in the West African country of Togo, where he spent much of his time drawing and writing.

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Now open: the 2015 Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Fashion and Biomedical Science

Applications are now open for the 2015 Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise! As in the past, three winners will be selected in the field of biomedical science, and three in the arts, which this year will be awarded in the field of fashion. New this year, however, is the increased prize amount: Each winner will receive a $50,000 cash award with their prize.

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Neri Oxman

The work of Israeli-born architect and designer Neri Oxman is so thoroughly creative that science foundations and world-renowned art and design collections alike embrace it for its imaginative and innovative qualities.

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Introducing the winners of the 2014 Vilcek Prizes

The Vilcek Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Vilcek Prizes! The prizes are awarded annually to immigrants in biomedical science and the arts and humanities, this year recognizing the field of design. The Vilcek Prizes honor immigrants with a record of groundbreaking contributions to their field. The Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise are awarded to younger immigrants who have demonstrated exceptional achievement.

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A Homecoming for Jan Vilcek

Vilcek Foundation President Jan Vilcek returns to his hometown of Bratislava, Slovakia to accept the title of doctor honoris causa from Comenius University next week. He is being recognized for his pioneering research in immunology and microbiology, as well as his role in developing groundbreaking treatments for arthritis and other immunological diseases.

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Trio of Artists Unveiled in the Third Annual dARTboard

In our third annual dARTboard exhibition, we are excited to announce three winning artists chosen from an extremely competitive pool of applicants for the dARTboard Call for Entries this past fall.

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Jan and Marica Vilcek to be honored by the Rosalind Franklin Society

To close off the year, the Rosalind Franklin Society will be honoring Vilcek Foundation founders Jan and Marica Vilcek at their annual meeting of the board. Dedicated to recognizing, fostering, and advancing the contributions of women in the life sciences, the Society will be honoring Jan and Marica for their work in raising awareness of not only immigrant scientists, but women scientists as well, through the Vilcek Prizes.

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Christina Strassfield to join the Vilcek Foundation Board of Directors

The Vilcek Foundation is delighted to welcome Christina Mossaides Strassfield, museum director/chief curator of Guild Hall Museum, as the newest director on the board of the Vilcek Foundation.

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Executive Director Rick Kinsel’s Gone MAD!

Congratulations to Vilcek Foundation Executive Director Rick Kinsel! The Museum of Arts and Design has selected him as a 2013 recipient of the MAD Visionaries! Awards, which recognizes creativity and leadership in the fields of arts and design. Rick is being honored for his ongoing work with the Vilcek Foundation, seeking out and supporting talented foreign-born artists and designers.

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A Community Discussion About Learning America

We first got to know French-born filmmaker Jean-Michel Dissard at the 2013 Hawaii International Film Festival, where his latest documentary, I Learn America, was a selection in the New American Filmmakers program. The Vilcek Foundation is thrilled to partner with the I Learn America team again, this time closer to home, to co-present a screening and community discussion on immigration and education.

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Grantee Spotlight: Little Kids Rock

Last year, we were proud to support Little Kids Rock, a non-profit organization that brings musical education into underserved schools across the country. The result of our partnership was the production of five original compositions by immigrant or first generation children. Put on your headphones and take a listen!

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Breakthrough Moments in Filmmaking - Director Chad Hartigan Discusses "This is Martin Bonner"

Chad Hartigan, born in Cyprus to Irish parents, explores the stories of his past with his sophomore feature drama This is Martin Bonner. The winner of the Best of Next Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, the film features Australian-born Paul Eenhoorn as the title character, as he adjusts to a new life in Reno, Nevada, in his mid-fifties.

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The Power of Storytelling: An Extended Interview with Andrew Adamson

The Vilcek Foundation was honored to include New Zealand­–born director Andrew Adamson as one of the inaugural New American Filmmaker Featured Filmmakers. NAF Featured Filmmakers spotlights immigrant film professionals whose careers have long played an integral role in American cinema.

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On the Road with Junya Sakino

Junya Sakino's road trip comedy, Sake-Bomb, about two cousins on a quest through California to win back their ex-girlfriends, has us itching to get back on the road.

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Out of the Studio and Into the Classroom

This year, we were delighted to have three of our New American Filmmakers selected to participate in the Hawaii International Film Festival’s Youth Education Programs. Delegates participated in the Guest Filmmaker Program, which brings film and media professionals into local classrooms of Hawaii, and the Cultural & Visual Literacy Program, which provides free theater screenings to students for films not easily accessible in Hawaii.

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Junya Sakino Adds an Asian Spin to the American Road Trip

A sake bomb is a popular cocktail made by dropping a shot of sake into a glass of beer, the combination of which is then chugged as quickly as possible. It was a mystery to Japanese-born director Junya Sakino when he first arrived in the U.S. Although the drink was ubiquitous in the sushi restaurants of southern California, where he had moved to attend film school, he had never heard of it before in his native Hiroshima.

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A Night to Celebrate the New American Filmmakers

Moviemakers from around the world, members of the HIFF board and staff, and friends of the New American Filmmakers series came together last night to celebrate the 2013 NAF delegates at a reception hosted at the Halekulani Hotel.

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From Ogres to X-Men — Composer Harry Gregson-Williams Orchestrates to Great Success

British-born Harry Gregson-Williams is one of the most well-known film composers of our time. His music can be heard in a diverse range of movies, from the Shrek series to Prometheus to Cowboys and Aliens. Most recently, his compositions can be found in the film Mr. Pip.

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'I Learn America' Goes to the Front of the Class

French-born documentary filmmaker Jean-Michel Dissard trades places with us and sits in front of the camera for this interview about his latest film, I Learn America. It follows five immigrant teenagers over a year at the International High School at Lafayette in Brooklyn, New York, one of the few schools in the nation devoted exclusively to newly arrived students.

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Escape from Tomorrow – the Ultimate Guerrilla Movie

Escape from Tomorrow took members of the film industry by surprise when it premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival — not least of which were the filmmakers themselves. Produced and edited by South Korean–born Soojin Chung, the filmis a psychological thriller that depicts a man’s descent into paranoia and delusions during a family vacation at the happiest place on earth.

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Presenting the 2013 New American Filmmakers

Aloha from sunny Honolulu! The Vilcek Foundation, in partnership with the Hawaii International Film Festival, is pleased to present the delegates of the 2013 New American Filmmakers. Now in its seventh year, NAF is a showcase of independent immigrant filmmakers – directors, producers, editors, cinematographers, actors, and more – whose work expands and enriches American cinema in all genres.

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An Artist’s Quest to Discover Home

For Brian Doan, the idea of home is abstract: “Home is a place [where] you’re born, but home is [also] where you feel you belong to.” In his new exhibition hôme hôme hôme, Brian draws inspiration from his past growing up in Vietnam as he continues the journey to find home.

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A first night for My Last Day Without You

For Christoph Silber, falling in love was as easy as boy meets girl. On his first visit to New York City, the German-born filmmaker struck up a conversation with a stranger on the subway. One week later, they decided to spend the rest of their lives together.

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American Science Without Foreign-Born Scientists?

As the national debate on immigration reform continues, Dr. Jan Vilcek, President of the Vilcek Foundation, will be giving a presentation this Thursday on one of our favorite topics – the integral role immigrants have played in the American sciences.

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A snapshot of Creative Promise Prize applicants

A total of 299 applicants answered our annual open call for the Creative Promise Prizes in Biomedical Science and Design. As our largest pool of applications to date, hopeful recipients of the prize represent a wide spectrum of fields spanning from product design to cancer research.

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During a nationwide tour, a pit stop in New York

PIT STOP, a feature drama directed by Malaysian-born Yen Tan, will be making its New York premiere this Saturday as a selection of the 23rd annual NewFest, New York's premier LGBT film festival. Set in rural Texas, the film features two gay men who are approaching middle age and unsure of whether they will ever leave their small town, or find love within its confines.

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Sneak Peak: Interview with Artist Brian Doan

Following the installation of hôme hôme hôme, a new exhibition opening September 14th, a production crew from True Film Productions visited the Vilcek Foundation gallery to film a revealing interview with Vietnamese-born artist Brian Doan.

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Cheer New York Raises Both Spirits and Funds

As the co-founder of Cheer New York, a charitable LGBTS cheerleading squad, Felipe Hernandez fulfills a wide range of roles: non-profit director, business administrator, and event planner. “I used to be the Safety Coach and Artistic Director too,” he says, “but over the years, I had to learn how to delegate.”

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What’s better than good news? More good news!

While we usually try not to brag, sometimes it’s hard not to: Five of the 27 newly named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators are former winners or finalists of the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science! A highly coveted honor, scientists appointed HHMI Investigators are provided generous, long-term flexible funding that allows them to pursue their studies without the constraints of more conventional grants.

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Launching into spring with an online art collection

Spring marks a very exciting time here at the Vilcek Foundation. In April, we celebrated with the recipients of the 2013 Vilcek Prizes at our annual gala. The Foundation’s anthology, American Odysseys: Writings by New Americans, was recently released in a paperback version and made available at Dalkey Press and Amazon. And in the next few days, applications for the 2014 Creative Promise Prizes in Biomedical Science and Design will open. As if this were not enough, we are extremely proud to announce that the Vilcek Foundation’s art collection has been published online for the first time ever at!

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