The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) announced the recipients of the 2020 Doris Duke Artist Awards on Thursday (Sept. 17). They are: jazz composer and vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, jazz drummer and composer Andrew Cyrille, director and playwright Michael John Garcés, playwright Dael Orlandersmith and choreographers Ana María Alvarez, Sean Dorsey, Rennie Harris and Pam Tanowitz.
Many similar awards offer the recipient a sense of validation and perhaps a modest monetary stipend. The DDCF, by contrast, gives each recipient a potentially life-changing amount of money—$275,000. There are no restrictions on the first $250,000 of the prize. The remaining $25,000 is meant to encourage savings for retirement.
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation designed the Doris Duke Artist Awards as a way to invest in individual artists in contemporary dance, jazz and theater who have demonstrated their artistic vitality and ongoing commitment to their field. The foundation aims to empower Doris Duke Artists through the freedom of unrestricted support to take creative risks, explore new ideas, and pay for important professional and personal needs not typically funded by the project-related grants that dominate arts funding.
With the 2020 class, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation will have awarded nearly $33.5 million to 122 noteworthy artists through the Doris Duke Artist Awards since May 2012.
“The work of this year’s Doris Duke Artist Award recipients is profoundly inspiring,” said Ed Henry, president and CEO of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. “…We take great pride in supporting these outstanding artists as they continue to develop and share their talent.”
Maurine Knighton, program director for the arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, added, “Our intent for this award has always been to enable its recipients to invest in their own well-being in ways that create the right conditions for them to continue to flourish and do their best work.”
McLorin Salvant is a three-time Grammy winner for best jazz vocal album for For One to Love (2015), Dreams and Daggers (2015) and The Window (2017). Yet in a statement, she said that this has been a tough year for her financially.
“This award comes during a year in which I’ve lost all paid work due to the pandemic,” she said. “[The award] is a gift of both space and time, two things that are crucial to any creative endeavor, and beyond that, it’s an encouragement for me to continue making work that scares me. I can explore and take risks. I am already imagining my next projects, and I am thinking about ways in which I can give back, teach, share, and help others flourish.”
Cyrille made a similar point. “Though I’ve received some grant awards in the past, this unrestricted award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is the greatest I’ve received in my 60-plus years of playing music professionally. Due to the fact that as a jazz musician gigs are not always plentiful and income can fluctuate greatly, the Doris Duke Artist Award will definitely lighten the load and ease my mind to allow me to move through those leaner periods with less stress.”
Duke, a billionaire tobacco heiress, philanthropist, art collector, horticulturalist, and socialite, died in 1993 at age 80.
In 2014, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded the foundation with a 2014 National Medal of Arts.
Past winners of note include Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lynn Nottage, Bill T. Jones, Lisa Kron and Bill Frisell.
To read more about the Doris Duke Artist Awards and the 2020 Doris Duke Artists, visit www.dorisdukeartistawards.org.