Two jazz musicians, Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah and Somi Kakoma, were among six creators who were named Doris Duke Artists on Monday at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center. Oscar- and Grammy-winning rapper Common hosted the event.
The Doris Duke Foundation also announced the doubling of the prize money associated with the award. Each recipient is receiving an award of $550,000, up from $275,000, in recognition of their contributions to the fields of contemporary dance, jazz and theater.
This year’s other Doris Duke Artists are director Charlotte Brathwaite and playwright and performer Kristina Wong in the theater category, and choreographers and performers Ayodele Casel and Rosy Simas in the dance category.
“When artists thrive, we all thrive,” Sam Gill, president and CEO of the Doris Duke Foundation, said at the event. “Tonight we evolve the Doris Duke Artist Award from an award to a platform—a platform to advocate and fight for the future of artists.”
“What a decade of this award has revealed to us is that if you trust extraordinary artists like the ones here tonight and give them the conditions to thrive, they will go beyond the boundaries and expectations that you or anyone else could set for them,” added Maurine Knighton, chief program officer at the Doris Duke Foundation.
Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah, 39, is a jazz trumpeter, composer and producer. Has received six Grammy nominations since 2008 – three for best contemporary instrumental album, two for best improvised jazz solo and one for best contemporary jazz album.
“Receiving the Doris Duke Artist Award offers me the ability to dedicate more time and care to what I truly love, which in itself is the most valuable gift a person can receive,” Chief Adjuah said in a statement. “Not only is this tremendously meaningful for myself, it also puts me in the position to create new opportunities throughout my community. Growing up, I often heard elders use the phrase ‘Take my song and pass it along,’ and I look forward to embodying this spirit in passing along this gift to others.”
Somi Kakoma, 41, is singer, songwriter, playwright and actor. In July 2020, Somi released Holy Room – Live at Alte Oper on her own Salon Africana label. The live album, which featured the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, was nominated for a 2021 Grammy for best jazz vocal album. It also won the 2021 NAACP Image Award for outstanding jazz album, vocal.
“As a proud daughter of immigrants, I have never fit neatly into a ‘here’ or ‘there’—nor has my music,” she said in a statement. “Receiving this award is affirmation that this journey has not been in vain. Knowing that it was determined by a panel of my peers is especially meaningful—I feel seen, understood, supported, and so very grateful. This award will allow me to pursue or formalize more of my artistic projects on the African continent in spaces where the local cultural economy doesn’t always have the resources in place to support them.”
The event included performances by six members from the inaugural class of Doris Duke Artists: Vijay Iyer, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Bebe Miller, Nicole Mitchell, Eiko Otake and Basil Twist.
The Doris Duke Artist Awards program supports approximately six performing artists annually with unrestricted individual grants. Recipients may use funds on anything: work space, travel, study, a new home, health care, exploring new collaborations or retirement savings.
The increase to the grant amount from $275,000 to $550,000 per artist reaffirms the Doris Duke Foundation’s commitment to investing in individual artists as the lifeblood of the performing arts. Gill announced the increase to an audience of around 400. He additionally revealed that the foundation has locked in a $30 million commitment to carry the program forward.
Established in 2012, the Doris Duke Artist Award is the largest national prize dedicated exclusively to individual performing artists. Since its inception, 129 Doris Duke Artists have received a total of $35.5 million in Doris Duke Artist Awards. This includes a total of $12.6 million in funding to 44 jazz artists.
The program was originally launched as a five-year program in 2012 as part of a $50 million special initiative but was made a core part of the foundation’s arts funding strategy in 2018. It was, and continues to be, the largest national prize dedicated to individual performing artists. It was also one of the first grant programs to offer a unique matching feature for up to $25,000 of the award to encourage artists to invest in late-career savings given the limited benefits programs available to them.
The Doris Duke Foundation operates five national grantmaking programs—in the performing arts, the environment, medical research, child and family well-being, and mutual understanding between communities—as well as Duke Farms and Shangri La, two centers that serve the public directly.
The Doris Duke Foundation is one of only two foundations to have received the National Medal of the Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts. To learn more, visit www.dorisduke.org.
To learn more about the Doris Duke Artist Awards and the six new Doris Duke Artists, visit: DorisDukeArtistAwards.org.