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Meredith Monk Wins the Gish Prize


Meredith Monk in a 2016 photo. She was named the winner of the Gish Prize.

Krista Schlueter for The New York Times

The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, one of the most generous arts honors in the United States, has been awarded to the singer, composer and multidisciplinary artist Meredith Monk, whose wordless vocal pirouettes and otherworldly theater compositions have reverberated in New York and internationally for five decades.

The Gish Prize, established in 1994, includes $250,000 in cash and is granted each year to an artist said to have “pushed the boundaries of an art form, contributed to social change and paved the way for the next generation,” according to an announcement. The award is given by a revolving selection committee comprising artists and cultural arbiters from different disciplines. Previous recipients have included Elizabeth LeCompte, Maya Lin, Spike Lee, Chinua Achebe, Robert Redford and Arthur Miller.

Ms. Monk, a New York native, came to prominence in the 1970s as a composer who used her own voice as a canvas, and who saw opera, film and choreography as complementary vessels for her varied artistic visions. In 1995, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, and in 2015 President Barack Obama presented her with the National Medal of Arts. Her original composition, “Walking Song,” played an unlikely comic role in a memorable scene starring Julianne Moore from the Coen brothers’ 1998 film “The Big Lebowski.”

In a statement accepting the prize, Ms. Monk paid tribute to the actress Lillian Gish, who created it through a bequest. “I believe, as she did, that art can be a healing force, a source of light during dark times,” Ms. Monk said. A private concert commemorating the Gish Prize will be held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Oct. 26.

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