Drummer Andrew Cyrille and vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant are among the 2020 Doris Duke Artists, joining six other artists from the fields of theater and contemporary dance. The prestigious award comes with a prize of $275,000.
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation announced the awards this morning. In Cyrille, who is 80, and Salvant, who just turned 31, the foundation honors two individualists with deep creative resources, a firm historical foundation, and a broad network of collaborators. It so happens that both artists also have cultural ties to Haiti: Salvant’s father is Haitian, and Cyrille was born into a Haitian family in New York.
They have each been productive during the pandemic, against the odds. Cyrille recently appeared at The Village Vanguard for a livestream with his band featuring guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Ben Street and pianist David Virelles. Salvant, who has been streaming performances from a Patreon page, appears on the new Blue Note album Artemis; her visual animation is also featured in a new video for a track from the forthcoming album Ella Fitzgerald: The Lost Berlin Tapes.
“This award comes during a year in which I’ve lost all paid work due to the pandemic,” McLorin Salvant says in a press statement. “It is a gift of both space and time, two things that are crucial to any creative endeavor, and beyond that, it’s an encouragement for me to continue making work that scares me. I can explore and take risks. I am already imagining my next projects, and I am thinking about ways in which I can give back, teach, share, and help others flourish.”
Cyrille echoes that sentiment: “Though I’ve received some grant awards in the past,” he says, “this unrestricted award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is the greatest I’ve received in my 60-plus years of playing music professionally.” (Almost all of the $275,000 is unrestricted funds; $25,000 is earmarked for retirement savings.)
The Doris Duke Artist Awards returned in 2018 after the expiration of its original five-year funding horizon. Along with Salvant and Cyrille, this year’s honorees include playwrights Michael John Garcés and Dael Orlandersmith, and choreographers Ana María Alvarez, Sean Dorsey, Rennie Harris and Pam Tanowitz. There are eight grantees, an increase from six last year.
“Our intent for this award has always been to enable its recipients to invest in their own well-being in ways that create the right conditions for them to continue to flourish and do their best work,” said Maurine Knighton, the foundation’s program director for the arts, in a press statement. “Amid a year like no other in recent memory, the importance of this aim should be readily apparent to all.”