Category:Announcement7 min read
McKnight Names Interdisciplinary
Artist Douglas R. Ewart
2022 Distinguished Artist
Photos by Molly Miles
The McKnight Foundation announces the selection of Douglas R. Ewart as its 2022 Distinguished Artist, an award given annually to a Minnesota artist who has made significant contributions to the state’s cultural life.
“We are thrilled to celebrate Douglas, who has contributed inventive, life-giving, and inspiring music and art to the state of Minnesota for years,” said Tonya Allen, president of McKnight Foundation. “His remarkably broad talents bring people of diverse backgrounds together and help us imagine how we can live together better in this world.”
“This award honors his heart and genius as well as his influence and impact.”—DEANNA CUMMINGS, ARTS & CULTURE PROGRAM DIRECTOR
Known as a master multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, Ewart is also widely recognized as an instrument maker, sound sculptor, painter, writer, and teacher. His renowned interdisciplinary work includes performance on a vast range of saxophones, flutes, woodwinds, and percussion instruments of his own design and construction.
“Douglas Ewart has been a mentor to countless musicians, performers, and creatives in Minnesota and nationally,” said DeAnna Cummings, Arts & Culture program director at McKnight Foundation. “This award honors his heart and genius as well as his influence and impact.”
The McKnight Distinguished Artist honor carries a $100,000 award.
Ewart has performed worldwide and recorded on numerous labels, including his own Aarawak. He has led the Nyahbingi Drum Choir, Orbit, Quasar, StringNets, and Clarinet Choir. His visual art and kinetic works have been shown at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Ojai Music Festival, Art Institute of Chicago, Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia), Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. Ewart also chaired the internationally renowned Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.
“Douglas Ewart’s work defies how we often attempt to define and describe as ‘multidisciplinary’ or ‘interdisciplinary,’” said Seitu Jones, who was the 2017 Distinguished Artist Award winner and one of the people who nominated Ewart. “He moves like a dancer between mediums, genres, and time. His mastery as a musician and visual artist is mind-blowing and defies any attempt to define his life and worldview. We don’t have a word in the English language yet to accurately describe the mix of art and life that Douglas embodies.”
“He moves like a dancer between mediums, genres, and time. His mastery as a musician and visual artist is mind-blowing and defies any attempt to define his life and worldview. We don’t have a word in the English language yet to accurately describe the mix of art and life that Douglas embodies.”
— Seitu Jones
Marcus Young, who served on the panel that chose Ewart, said, “The panel was moved by the nomination letters that not only spoke of Ewart’s talents and contributions as an artist and trailblazer, but also of the love, deep respect, and gratitude these nominators feel for him. They detailed an artist who lives his creative life thoroughly and shares generously with the community.”
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Ewart immigrated to Chicago in the 1963. He studied music at the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians there and later taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He moved to Minnesota in 1990. He has performed in the Caribbean (Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico), Europe (France, Germany, Holland, Italy, UK), Japan, Bali, South America, Scandinavia, and Australia, as well as in the United States (Carnegie Hall, The Kitchen, Walker Art Center, Public Theater, and many more venues). In September, he was featured in the Hyde Park Jazz Festival in Chicago.
Ewart’s work as a composer, instrument maker, and visual artist has long reflected his understanding of the importance of sustainable and natural materials. Bamboo, in particular, serves not only as a primary physical material for many of his sculptures and instruments but also as a crucial conceptual element of some of his most important recordings. His 8-foot rainstick is on exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, and an exhibit of his sculpture and sonic sculptures is at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design through December.
His massive collective composition, Crepuscule, is a celebration of sunset that brings together diverse musical groups, dancers, artists, and activists for a musical and visual event that has become a signature program of the Jazz Institute of Chicago. “Crepuscule” has also been performed in Philadelphia and Minneapolis, and at the Banlieues Bleues Festival in Paris.
Among his many honors, Ewart received the Jamaica Musgrave Silver Medal for Outstanding Merit in the Arts, Education, and Culture 2019, and Chicago’s Outstanding Artist Award. He has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, Bush Foundation, Jerome Foundation, and others.
Ewart, who lives in south Minneapolis, was selected by a panel of community members with broad perspectives and knowledge about the region’s diverse arts and cultural landscape. The panel included Marcus Young, theater artist and educator; Michele Anderson, rural director for Springboard for the Arts; Lana Barkawi, executive director of Mizna; Carlton Turner, lead artist and co-director of Sipp Culture; and Daniel Bergin, filmmaker and senior producer and partnership manager for Twin Cities Public Television.
ABOUT THE McKNIGHT DISTINGUISHED ARTIST AWARD
The McKnight Distinguished Artist Award recognizes artists who have made significant lifelong contributions to Minnesota, enriching our communities. The annual $100,000 award honors artists who have made an enduring commitment to creating art that is locally, regionally, and/or nationally significant. These artists have chosen to center their lives and careers in Minnesota, thereby making our state a more culturally rich place. First and foremost, they have produced creatively incisive art reflecting their particular and extraordinary point of view. McKnight Distinguished Artists have also inspired other artists, earned acclaim from audiences, patrons, critics, and other arts professionals, and some have founded and strengthened arts organizations.
ABOUT THE McKNIGHT FOUNDATION
The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, advances a more just, creative, and abundant future where people and planet thrive. Established in 1953, the McKnight Foundation is deeply committed to advancing climate solutions in the Midwest; building an equitable and inclusive Minnesota; and supporting the arts in Minnesota, neuroscience, and international crop research.