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Dael Orlandersmith, Michael John Garcés Receive Doris Duke Artist Awards

The award includes a $275,000 prize for each artist.

NEW YORK CITY: The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) has announced the winners of the 2020 Doris Duke Artist Awards, which awards each artist with a total of $275,000 in unrestricted funds including $25,000 dedicated to encouraging retirement savings. This year’s eight winners include director Michael John Garcés and playwright Dael Orlandersmith.

“Our goal here is to make artists’ lives possible, to make lives viable and feasible,” said DDCF president Ed Henry during the virtual awards ceremony. “Our whole idea is that the use of this money is to be determined by the artist, whether it’s studio rental, equipment rental, your living situation so that’s more solid. It’s all so you can do your work.”

The award, which the foundation points out is not a lifetime achievement award, is given to individual artists in the field of contemporary dance, jazz, theatre, and related interdisciplinary work “who have demonstrated their artistic vitality and commitment to their field.” The award is meant to invest in dedicated artists and empower them to take creative risks, explore new ideas, and pay for personal and professional needs that might not be funded by project-related grants.

DDCF has now awarded 122 artists a total of $33.5 million since the award began in 2012. In addition to the theatre awardees, Ana María Alvarez (dance), Andrew Cyrille (jazz), Sean Dorsey (dance), Rennie Harris (dance), Cécile McLorin Salvant (jazz), and Pam Tanowitz (dance) were also honored this year.

Dael Orlandersmith.

Poet, activist, and playwright Orlandersmith has worked and been produced across the country. Her play Yellowman was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and she has previously been awarded with an Obie Award for her play Beauty’s Daughter, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award, and the Whiting Award.

“What a wonderful, necessary thing this is,” said Orlandersmith during the virtual ceremony. “I’m very humbled because, I’ve received awards before, but this coming from my peers, whoever you are, for you to nominate me for this was great. It gives me permission to invade my own privacy, go even farther to channel and tackle things I’m afraid of, and set up my future. If I can keep going and keep challenging and giving myself permission to be afraid, you help me do that. And that’s the whole role of an artist.”

Michael John Garces. (Photo by Kevin Michael Campbell)

Garcés is the current artistic director of Cornerstone Theater Company. His previous awards include the Princess Grace Statue Award, the Alan Schneider Director Award, the Rockwood Arts and Culture Fellowship, a TCG/New Generations Grant, and the Non-Profit Excellence Award from the Center of Non-Profit Management. He also serves as first vice president of the executive board of SDC, the theatrical union for stage directors and choreographers.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with some former recipients,” said Garcés during the ceremony, “and I think that augments my sense of the honor of the recognition. These are people who I admire, who I’ve learned from, who I aspire to achieve at the level that they achieve in terms of their artistry, in terms of their vulnerability, in terms of their risk taking. To receive that kind of recognition, and to think that some of my peers in the field feel that I’m worthy of being in their company and in the company of this cohort of artists, really amplifies the sense of what this award means.”

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