Last month, the American Academy in Rome awarded Weitzman alum Monica Rhodes (MSHP’12) the prestigious and highly competitive Adele Chatfield-Taylor Rome Prize in historic preservation and conservation.
Each year, the prize is awarded to about 30 artists and scholars who represent the highest standard of excellence in the arts and humanities, and who are in the early or middle stages of their careers.
“’The Prize’ can be defined as many things,” Rhodes wrote in a social media post. “But to me, a Black woman from Waco, TX, this represents a continuum of progress for the historic preservation movement.”
Rhodes, who is one of few academically-trained African American preservationists, has pushed the field toward inclusivity. “My work is grounded in the pursuit to ensure every aspect of American history is accounted for, and this honor is a stepping stone to making sure that happens,” she said.
In a 2020 panel discussion organized by Weitzman Development and Alumni Relations, she called on practitioners to not just preserve African American heritage, but to above all value the “cultural authority of Black communities.” She noted, “Conversations are already happening without using the term ‘preservation.’ We need to be able to speak multiple languages.”
Since graduating from Weitzman’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation in 2012, Rhodes has innovated and implemented programs at leading national nonprofits to empower a new generation of preservationists and diversify the field. As the director of resource management for the National Park Foundation, she helped lead efforts to develop strategies for African American and Latinx engagement. Before that, she developed the first national program centered on diversifying the preservation trades at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.