MINNEAPOLIS: The McKnight Foundation has awarded playwright, poet, and writer Marcie Rendon its 2020 Distinguished Artist Award. This $50,000 award, first given in 1996, honors a Minnesota artist “who has made significant contributions to the state’s cultural life.” An enrolled member of the White Earth Nation, Rendon explores the resilience and brilliance of Native peoples through her poems, plays, children’s books, and novels.
“Marcie brings a strong and necessary voice to so many genres,” said Pamela Wheelock, McKnight’s interim president, in a statement. “She has created a tremendous body of work, including poetry, plays, lyrics, and award-winning crime novels, all while raising up other Native voices in our community. Her commitment to making art in community embodies what a distinguished artist means to Minnesota and to McKnight.”
Rendon, the first Native American woman to receive this award, is the author of the award-winning Cash Blackbear mystery series, which won her the 2018 Pinckley Prize for Debut Novel, and the play Sweet Revenge, which was chosen for the Oklahoma Indigenous Theatre Company’s 2020 New Native American Play Festival. Rendon is also the founder of Raving Native Theater, which “brings voice and visibility to other Native American artists and performers.”
“We are more resilient than we are traumatized,” said Rendon in a statement. “Art keeps us thriving, not just surviving. I try to make room for other Native artists. Every time someone steps forward, it makes room for others to step forward.”
Rendon’s other awards include a 2020 Ensemble/Playwright Collaboration Grant from the Network of Ensemble Theaters and the Playwrights’ Center, a 2020 COVID-19 artist grant from the Tiwahe Foundation “for demonstrating resilience during the pandemic,” and Loft’s 2017 Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship with poet Diego Vazquez.
“Marcie has moved fluidly as an artist, poet, and playwright, with a common thread of working in her community as an essential contributor to our cultural ecosystem,” said Sandy Agustin, a member of the Distinguished Artist Award selection committee, in a statement. “Whether she is writing about boarding schools, incarceration, or the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, she is nurturing Native voices and amplifying communities that are too often unheard, especially Native women.”
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