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Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Announces the 2nd Class of Impact Award Recipients

June 16, 2015

Twenty Performing Artists Receive $80,000 Each as Recipients of Doris Duke Impact Awards, Bringing the Current Number of Individuals Awarded These Grants to 40 and the Total Funds to $3.2 Million

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) and Creative Capital announced today the second group of individuals to receive Doris Duke Impact Awards. The award is part of the larger Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards, launched in late 2011 as a special 10-year initiative of DDCF to empower, invest in and celebrate artists by offering flexible, multi-year funding in response to financial challenges that are specific to the performing arts. Each recipient of a Doris Duke Impact Award is receiving $80,000, totaling in $1.6 million to 20 new grantees, along with access to advisory services provided by Creative Capital, which administers the program in partnership with DDCF. Since April 2014, DDCF has awarded a total of $3.2 million in Impact Awards to 40 artists in the fields of jazz, dance and theatre.  

Ben Cameron, program director for the arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, said, "The Doris Duke Impact Awards are based on nominations submitted by artists, identifying others (often less widely known) that will have enormous impact on the jazz, dance or theatre fields in the future. This year's group is a thrilling one: we are honored to support them and look forward, not only to how they will use their funds, but to the ways they will shape and change the performing arts in the future."

The 2015 Doris Duke Impact Awards are:

  • - Becca Blackwell (Theater)
  • - Lear deBessonet (Theater)
  • - Kris Davis (Jazz)
  • - Mark Dresser (Jazz)
  • - Michelle Ellsworth (Dance)
  • - Beth Gill (Dance)
  • - Milford Graves (Jazz)
  • - Ishmael Houston-Jones (Dance)
  • - Morgan Jenness (Theater)
  • - Heather Kravas (Dance)
  • - Dohee Lee (Theater)
  • - Dianne McIntyre (Dance)
  • - Matt Mitchell (Jazz)
  • - Carlos Murillo (Theater)
  • - Brooke O'Harra (Theater)
  • - Susan Rethorst (Dance)
  • - Tyshawn Sorey (Jazz)
  • - Henry Threadgill (Jazz)
  • - Reggie Workman (Jazz)
  • - Pamela Z (Theater)

A few of the Doris Duke Impact Award recipients shared some of their early thoughts on and tentative plans for their grants. 

Lear deBessonet, a recipient in the category of theatre who is well-known in New York circles for her large-scale productions of classical works involving casts of both community members and professional actors, said, "There is no higher honor than being recognized by your peers, especially because community-based work like mine has for a long time been marginalized. The way that the theatre community has wrapped its arms around this work and chosen to acknowledge it as serious artistic practice and as having aesthetic rigor, it just means the world to me. I think we're at a critical juncture in terms of expanding the work of Public Works (an initiative of the Public Theater) to have national reach, and I'm excited about the ways that this award will help us make what we've learned and the related tools available to other artists and other theaters."

Michelle Ellsworth, a recipient in the dance category who is notable for her often daring and humorously offbeat works, such as her recent, critically acclaimed piece, Preparation for the Obsolescence of the Y Chromosome, said, "Because of the nature and flexibility of this award, I just know that it will ultimately subsidize my very worst ideas--and when I say worst ideas, I mean my best ideas, the hard sells that no one else would fund. I'll be able to use these resources to make the pieces that are central to my process and that I've been funding for decades out of my food budget, that require my family to eat lentils 20 days of the month. I'll also be able to do things to create a more sustainable practice, such as paying off a debt and building some savings for when I retire from the university but am still creating work."

Henry Threadgill, a recipient in the jazz category whose influential four-decade-plus career as a multi-instrumentalist continues to make an indelible mark on the field, said, "After I finish what I'm currently working on, I want to look at how I might be able to not just work on a piece but get the music to a larger audience--people who might not easily find themselves in front of my music. There are people in society who don't get information as readily, or at all, about certain things. The last record I did I had them put Braille information on it. But, you can have all kinds of disabilities, not always physical. So I want to think about that a little bit and consider how to address it using these funds."

To learn more about the 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award recipients and to view samples of each artist's work, visit

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