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McKnight Names Theater Artist Faye M. Price 2021 Distinguished Artist

The McKnight Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of Faye M. Price as its 2021 Distinguished Artist, an honor that carries a $50,000 award for a Minnesota artist who has made significant contributions to the state’s cultural life.

As a director, actor, dramaturg, and arts leader, Price has significantly influenced Minnesota theater by bringing seminal work of Black artists to the forefront and marrying live theater with social justice. She was the co-artistic producing director of Pillsbury House Theatre for 21 years and a founding member of both Penumbra Theatre and Mixed Blood Theatre, where she originated numerous roles and created foundational work by Black artists that is now part of the American theater canon.

“We are thrilled to celebrate Faye, who has brilliantly demonstrated how theater can advance civic conversations about race, equity, and justice,” said Tonya Allen, president of the McKnight Foundation. “As our stages reopen and we come together once again for live theater, we look forward to seeing Faye’s vision and mentorship of artists of color continue to resonate in performances around the state.”

Price recently stepped down from her role at Pillsbury House Theatre, a center for creativity and community in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Minnesota. The organization integrates arts throughout its programming, from early childhood education to truancy prevention to neighborhood building efforts. Under Price’s direction, the theater became a home for numerous acclaimed artists, including director Marion McClinton, actor Laurie Carlos, and playwright Tracey Scott Wilson.

Price at a rehearsal for Angels In America At Macalester College. Photo credit: Molly Miles
Photo proofs from headshots Price had taken early on in her acting career.

“Faye and her partners at Pillsbury House found a way for her to be a thought leader and to forge a path that allowed her to be artistic and creative in both her artistic and administrative work,” said Lana Barkawi, executive and artistic director of Mizna and a member of this year’s Distinguished Artist Award selection committee.

Actor Regina Williams said Price’s attention to detail and unique combination of skills set her apart. “Faye is always present in the room, in a very good way, making sure everyone has what they need,” said Williams. “And because she is an actor, dramaturg, and director, she can guide a show in a way I’ve never seen. I experienced this firsthand when she directed me in Nina Simone: Four Women. She had a profound impact on guiding that play from inception to stages around the world. She has been a trailblazer, opening doors for so many artists.”

“Faye is all things an artist should be. She is smart, talented, fearless, well-read, but also humble. She has paved the way for so many people and continues to do so.”—JAMES WILLIAMS, ACTOR

Price grew up in Chicago and attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Macalester College and a master’s degree in theater from the University of Minnesota, where she was the first-ever recipient of the August Wilson Fellowship in Dramaturgy and Literary Criticism. She served as a dramaturg at the Guthrie Theater for dozens of shows. As an actor and a director, Price has worked with a long list of local theaters including Penumbra, Mixed Blood, the Guthrie, At the Foot of the Mountain, Illusion, Actors Theatre of St. Paul, Park Square, the Jungle, History Theatre, and the Playwrights’ Center, as well as notable theaters across the country, including New York’s Circle in the Square and Baltimore Center Stage.

“Faye is all things an artist should be,” said actor James Williams, who first appeared on stage with her when they were fellow students at Macalester. “She is smart, talented, fearless, well-read, but also humble. She has paved the way for so many people and continues to do so.”

In 2019, Price directed The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 at the Kennedy Center. Photo credit: Yassine El Mansouri

In addition to her work in theater, Price played a leading role in advocating for the passage of the Minnesota Legacy Amendment, which was approved by voters in 2008 and is expected to provide more than $1.2 billion in public funding for the arts across the state over 25 years.

An alumna of the Salzburg Global Seminar, Price has served on numerous boards and selection committees for the National Endowment for the Arts, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Jerome Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, McKnight Fellowships for Theater Artists, 3Arts in Chicago, New Dawn Theatre, and Tofte Lake Center. Price received the 2006 Catharine Lealtad Service to Society Award from Macalester College and the 2012 Sally Ordway Irvine Award for Initiative from the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. In 2020, the Minnesota Citizens for the Arts honored her with the Larry Award for being an “unsung hero of the arts.”

Price, who lives in south Minneapolis, was selected by a panel of community members with broad perspective 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.


The Distinguished Artist Award recognizes artists who have chosen to make their lives and careers in Minnesota, thereby making our state a more culturally rich place. Although they had the talent and the opportunity to pursue their work elsewhere, these artists chose to stay—and by staying, they have made a difference. They have founded and strengthened arts organizations, inspired younger artists, and attracted audiences and patrons. Best of all, they have made wonderful, thought-provoking art. The goal of McKnight’s Arts & Culture program is to catalyze the creativity, power, and leadership of Minnesota working artists and culture bearers. The program believes that Minnesota thrives when all its artists and culture bearers thrive. The Distinguished Artist Award honors one Minnesota artist each year.


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 and culture in Minnesota, neuroscience, and international crop research.

Topic: Arts & Culture, The McKnight Distinguished Artist Award

October 2021