The Gish Prize Trust today announced that playwright, actress, author and educator Anna Deavere Smith has been selected to receive the 19th annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, given annually as a legacy from the legendary film and stage actresses. Established in 1994, it is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious awards in the arts and is also one of the largest, currently bearing a cash value of approximately $300,000. Throughout the years, the Prize's mission has helped to support artists who have pushed the boundaries of their art forms and contributed to social change, therefore paving the way for future generations of artistic innovators.
Recipients of the Gish Prize are nominated by members of the arts community and selected by a distinguished committee of arts professionals. Under guidelines set forth in the will of Lillian Gish, the prize is awarded "to a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind's enjoyment and understanding of life." In honoring Anna Deavere Smith, the selection committee chose her from a group of 30 esteemed finalists from the fields of dance, visual art, music, theater, film, writing, architecture, and interdisciplinary arts.
Anna Deavere Smith stated, "The Gish Prize provides credibility and recognition for artists who invented a new path for themselves and their work. The Gish sisters leave an enduring lesson for all artists that forging their own a path is worth the effort. I am deeply honored and can't imagine a greater honor than having my name linked with the incomparable Dorothy and Lillian Gish."
The selection committee for the Gish Prize was committee chair Vishakha Desai, Senior Advisor for Global Programs at the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation and President Emerita of the Asia Society; Garth Fagan, choreographer; George Negroponte, visual artist; Rebecca Robertson, President and Executive Producer of the Park Avenue Armory; and Darren Walker, Vice President of Education, Creativity and Free Expression for the Ford Foundation.
Vishakha Desai stated, "The Gish Prize stands apart from others in the field because of the deliberately broad scope of its mandate. Open to all disciplines, it seeks to draw the public's attention not only to specific artistic contributions but to the vital role in our world of creativity itself. This is not a grantmaker's approach, but the expression of a great artist establishing a legacy for artists to come. In Anna Deavere Smith, we have a recipient who is fully worthy of that trust."
According to Darren Walker, "As a writer and performer who has created what is in some ways a new art form, Anna Deavere Smith exemplifies the trailblazing courage of the Gish sisters themselves, who did so much to make the early cinema a great artistic medium. As an artist and educator who uses her work to address today's major social issues, Anna also fulfills Lillian Gish's desire for the prize to recognize someone who has 'served as a model to others.' Anna opens our eyes, ears and minds to some of the most challenging aspects of our lives, and in so doing helps give others the courage to do the same."
"The Gish Prize acknowledges and celebrates artistic breakthroughs and supports the indomitable spirit of trailblazers like Anna Deavere Smith," says Jacqueline E. Elias, Senior Philanthropy Advisor at The Philanthropy Centre at JPMorgan Private Bank." This tremendous gift inspires us year after year and we are honored to maintain the legacy and spirit of the pioneering Gish sisters." JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves as trustee of the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize Trust.
The 19th annual Gish Prize will be presented to Anna Deavere Smith on the evening of Wednesday, February 13, 2013 in New York City at a private event hosted by JP Morgan and attended by leaders of the arts community. The ceremony will include remarks by Glenn D. Lowry, Director of The Museum of Modern Art; a special performance by Ethan Philbrick, a student of Anna Deavere Smith and Assistant Curator at Anna Deavere Smith Works; and a performance by choreographer Elizabeth Streb.