One of the largest prizes awarded in the arts, the $300,000 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, is going to the actress and author Anna Deavere Smith.
The prize, now in its 19th year, was established by Lillian Gish’s will and 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.” Ms. Smith, a familiar figure on stage, television and film, was chosen from a list of 30 finalists.
Darren Walker, vice president for education, creativity and free expression for the Ford Foundation and a member of the selection committee, credited Ms. Smith with creating “what is in some ways a new art form,” and using her position as an artist and educator “to address today’s major social issues.”
Ms. Smith, who burst onto the theater scene in the 1990s with one-woman shows like “Fires in the Mirror” (about the 1991 riot in Crown Heights) and “Twilight: Los Angeles” (about violence that erupted in 1992 after the acquittal of police officers in connection with the beating of Rodney King), is now a regular presence on television in the Showtime series “Nurse Jackie.” In addition to writing books and appearing in films, she is also a professor at New York University’s Performance Studies Department.
“The Gish Prize provides credibility and recognition for artists who invented a new path for themselves and their work,” Ms. Smith said. The prize will be formally presented in a private ceremony on Feb. 13th.
article by Patricia Cohen via nytimes.com