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Thelma Golden is the 2023 recipient of the Gish Prize

The Gish Prize Trust announced that Thelma Golden, who as Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem is internationally renowned as an advocate for and collaborator with generations of Black artists, has been selected to receive the 30th annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in recognition of her continuing contributions to the arts.


The Prize, established in 1994 through the will of legendary screen and stage actress Lillian Gish, known as the First Lady of Cinema, is one of the most prestigious honors given to artists and their supporters in the United States and bears one of the largest cash awards, currently valued at approximately $250,000.


First Lady Michelle Obama talks with Studio Museum Director and Chief Curator Thelma Golden during a tour of the museum in Harlem. Golden will spearhead the development of Barack Obama's presidential library. (National Journal)
First Lady Michelle Obama talks with Studio Museum Director and Chief Curator Thelma Golden during a tour of the museum in Harlem. Golden will spearhead the development of Barack Obama's presidential library. (National Journal)

The Gish Prize is given each year to a highly accomplished figure from any discipline of the arts who has pushed the boundaries of an art form, contributed to social change, and paved the way for the next generation—in the words of Lillian Gish, an artist or advocate “who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to [humankind’s] understanding and enjoyment of life.” The selection committee for the 2023 Gish Prize chose Thelma Golden from a field of distinguished finalists in the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, and arts administration. She now joins a three-decades-long list of honorees that in recent years has included Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Sonia Sanchez, Ava DuVernay, Gustavo Dudamel, Suzan-Lori Parks, Meredith Monk, Spike Lee, Anna Deavere Smith, Maya Lin, Trisha Brown, Bill T. Jones, and Chinua Achebe.


Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, next to works in the museum’s Stanley Whitney exhibition. PHOTO: CLAUDIO PAPAPIETRO FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, next to works in the museum’s Stanley Whitney exhibition. PHOTO: CLAUDIO PAPAPIETRO FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“As a curator and museum director who has been privileged to work for and on behalf of artists for my entire career, I am humbled to receive this prize that was created by an artist and has been given to so many creative leaders I greatly admire. Working in service of artists in general, and very specifically Black artists, has allowed me to engage broadly in the world. I gratefully accept the Gish Prize and wholly acknowledge what an honor it has been able to provide space, alongside the many institutional colleagues, Board members, and supporters who are equally committed to advancing the work these artists do.” - Thelma Golden

This year’s selection committee presents the Gish Prize to Thelma Golden, a recognition well deserved for her profound contributions to the world of contemporary art and her unwavering commitment to fostering inclusivity and diversity within the art community,


 

ABOUT THELMA GOLDEN

Portrait of Thelma Golden
Portrait of Thelma Golden

Thelma Golden holds a BA degree from Smith College. She has received honorary doctorates from the New School (2022), Columbia University (2018), Barnard College (2010), the City College of New York (2009), San Francisco Art Institute (2008), and Smith College (2004). In 2010, she received the Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. In 2018, she was the recipient of the J. Paul Getty Medal. Golden has also received various fellowships and was named a Henry Crown Fellow in 2008 and a Ford Foundation Fellow in 2015. President Obama appointed Golden to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, on which she served from 2010 to 2016. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Barack Obama Foundation, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. She is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Goldman Sachs “One Million Black Women” initiative and the Advisory Board for the Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums. Recently, she served on the International Jury for the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale. She is a recognized authority in Black art and an active lecturer and panelist who speaks about contemporary art and culture at national and international institutions.


 

ABOUT

The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize


Established in 1994 through the will of Lillian Gish, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize is given annually to an individual who has “made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to [humankind’s] enjoyment and understanding of life.” Past recipients are Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Sonia Sanchez, Ava DuVernay, Walter Hood, Gustavo Dudamel, Meredith Monk, Elizabeth LeCompte, Suzan-Lori Parks, Maya Lin, Spike Lee, Anna Deavere Smith, Trisha Brown, Chinua Achebe, Pete Seeger, Robert Redford, Laurie Anderson, Shirin Neshat, Peter Sellars, Ornette Coleman, Bill T. Jones, Lloyd Richards, Jennifer Tipton, Merce Cunningham, Arthur Miller, Isabel Allende, Bob Dylan, Robert Wilson, Ingmar Bergman, and Frank Gehry. Prize recipients are nominated by the arts community and chosen by a distinguished committee of arts leaders for their groundbreaking work in their chosen fields.


For further information, visit gishprize.org.


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Thelma Golden is the 2023 recipient of the Gish Prize

November 2, 2023

Sunshine Alaibe

3 min read