Thelma Golden, studio museum Harlem

Studio Museum Chief Curator Thelma Golden Receives Dorothy And Lillian Gish Prize

Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, has been awarded this year’s Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize.

The honor recognizes exceptional artists and art supporters in the United States who, in Gish’s words, have “made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to [humankind’s] understanding and enjoyment of life.”

The annual prize is awarded to those who have inspired social change and broken barriers in the art industry. Recipients receive a cash award of $250,000. 

“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,” Golden said. 

“Working in service of artists in general, and very specifically Black artists, has allowed me to engage broadly in the world,” she continued. “I gratefully accept the Gish Prize and wholly acknowledge what an honor it has been to be able to provide space, alongside the many institutional colleagues, Board members, and supporters who are equally committed to advancing the work these artists do.”

A New York native, Golden began her career in high school as an apprentice at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. During her undergraduate years at Smith College, ​​she studied art history and African American studies. Following graduation, she became a curatorial fellow at the Studio Museum in Harlem. 

The Gish Prize Trust was established in 1994 by Lillian Gish, who is credited as the First Lady of Cinema. Finalists are selected from a pool of distinguished artists and art contributors in the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, and arts administration. This year’s selection committee was chaired by Chief Executive Officer of the National Black Theater Sade Lythcott. 

“This year’s selection committee unanimously and enthusiastically 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,” said Lythcott.
“Thelma’s visionary leadership has ignited important dialogues and transformed institutions, inspiring artists and audiences alike. As chair of this year’s prize committee, I am honored to celebrate her exceptional impact and look forward to the continued brilliance she will undoubtedly bring to the world of art and culture.”

Past recipients include filmmaker Ava Duvernay, conductor Gustavo Dudamel, director and screenwriter Spike Lee, and dancer and instructor Jawole Willa Jo Zollar.

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