Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winning singer and actress Audra McDonald has been named the recipient of the 2018 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT. The $100,000 cash prize, to be awarded at a gala in her honor on April 14, 2018, also includes an artist residency, during which McDonald will present a public talk at MIT (also on April 14) about her performances in musical theater, film and television.
The announcement follows what has been a banner year for the singer and actress. Over the summer, she made her debut in London’s West End playing Billie Holiday in "Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill" — the role that netted her a record sixth Tony Award during its 2014 Broadway run — and in the spring she graced movie screens worldwide as Madame Garderobe in Disney’s live-action "Beauty and the Beast." This coming spring, McDonald will join the cast of "The Good Fight" on CBS All Access and embark on a North American concert tour.
McDonald says that art “is not just something beautiful that we experience in a theater or a museum.”
“Art can also be painful or make us feel vulnerable, but in that discomfort it has the power to be illuminating, transformative, and revelatory,” she says. “As in life, art must relish the joys while also embracing the suffering and struggle — a paradox that epitomizes the human experience. My greatest hope is that art helps us as a society to find common ground, to create dialogue, and to understand each other in new and meaningful ways. I am therefore so humbled and honored to receive the McDermott Award in the Arts and look forward to exploring these topics during my residency at MIT, an institution that embodies innovation, creativity, and, above all, humanity.”
The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT celebrates individuals who continue to achieve the highest distinction in their fields and who will produce inspiring work for many years to come. The $100,000 cash prize represents an investment in the recipient’s future creative work, rather than a prize for a particular project or lifetime of achievement. Past recipients include David Adjaye, Olafur Eliasson, Robert Lepage, Gustavo Dudamel, Bill Viola, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Santiago Calatrava, among others.
“We are delighted to celebrate the phenomenal actress and singer Audra McDonald as we embark on a new era of the performing arts at MIT and soon will inaugurate our first dedicated performing arts space,” says MIT Associate Provost and Ford International Professor of History Philip S. Khoury. “Our new theater arts building will address the increasing demand by students for theater training and allow the outstanding artists on our faculty to present their work on campus in addition to stages around the world. We look forward to having Ms. McDonald work with our faculty and students during her residency. Her incomparable range across multiple genres of performance will enrich our performing arts community.”
A distinctive feature of the award is a short residency at MIT, which includes a public presentation of the artist’s work, substantial interaction with students and faculty, and a gala that convenes national and international leaders in the arts. The goal of the residency is to provide the recipient with unparalleled access to the creative energy and cutting-edge research at the Institute and to develop mutually enlightening relationships with MIT students and faculty.
The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT was established in 1974 by the Council for the Arts at MIT. The selection process reflects MIT’s commitment to risk taking, problem solving, and the idea of connecting creative minds across disciplines. The award honors Eugene McDermott, the co-founder of Texas Instruments and longtime friend and benefactor of the Institute.
The Council for the Arts at MIT is a volunteer group of alumni and friends who support the arts at the Institute. Since its founding in 1972 by MIT President Jerome B. Wiesner, the council has bestowed the award on 36 individuals who work in the performing, visual, and media arts, as well as authors, art historians, and patrons of the arts. Appointed by the President of MIT to three-year terms, council members serve its mission “to foster the arts at MIT and to act as a catalyst for the development of a broadly based, highly participatory program in the arts.”
For more information on the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, visit the award program site.