The Council for the Arts at MIT has awarded the 2001 Eugene McDermott Award to London-based installation filmmaker Isaac Julien. In addition, the council named Ed McCluney, director of the Student Art Association, winner of the 2001 Gyorgy Kepes Fellowship Prize. The awards were presented Oct. 25-26 at the council's 29th annual meeting, which this year focused on visual arts.
The McDermott Award, presented annually since 1974 in honor of Eugene McDermott, a benefactor to MIT in education and the arts, is bestowed on an artist of the highest caliber in a given arts discipline.
Julien is an internationally recognized artist, writer, teacher and scholar, known for his mediations on popular mythology, history, race and high culture. He forges a new language around black representation and breaks down the barriers between artistic disciplines to unite film, dance, photography, music, theater, painting and sculpture to construct a powerfully visual narrative.
Julien first came to prominence in the film world with his 1989 drama-documentary "Looking for Langston," a poetic exploration of Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. His renown grew in 1991 when his film "Young Soul Rebels" won the Semaine de la Critique prize for best film at the Cannes Film Festival.
Julien recently became a research fellow at Goldsmith's College at the University of London and was shortlisted for this year's Turner Prize at London's Tate Gallery. Currently a visiting lecturer in Afro-American Studies and in Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University, he will return to the MIT campus at a later date for a brief residency.
McCLUNEY'S KEPES PRIZE
The Kepes Prize, presented to McCluney, director of the MIT Student Art Association (SAA), is named for Institute Professor Emeritus Gyorgy Kepes, founder of MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies. The $2,500 award is given annually to a member of the MIT community whose creative work reflects the vision and values of Gyorgy Kepes, who was celebrated for his work exploring the relationship between art and science, and art and the environment.
Known as a printmaker, illustrator, technical and portrait photographer, McCluney's award citation referred to his leadership of the SAA. "For 15 years, Ed has run this remarkable place, a pressure-free MIT refuge, where opportunities to explore the visual arts ... are just around the corner," the citation read.
The Council for the Arts at MIT is a volunteer organization of MIT alumni and friends founded in 1972 to foster the visual, literary and performing arts at the Institute. It provides support for many performances, exhibitions, arts facilities and co-curricular programs at MIT through its grants program and standing committees.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 7, 2001.