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McKnight Distinguished Artist Award

Recognizing the artists who have made significant lifelong contributions to Minnesota, enriching our communities.

The annual $50,000 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award recognizes artists who have made a lifelong commitment to creating art that is locally, regionally, and/or nationally significant.

These artists have chosen to make 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.


at a Glance


Artist every year


Artists since 1981


Per award

2017 distinguished artist

Seitu Ken Jones

Connecting Art, Nature, and Neighborhoods

During his wide-ranging career in painting, sculpture, set design, public works, and environmental architecture, Seitu Ken Jones has redefined public art from the ground up. He has embedded Minnesota’s stories in murals and civic infrastructure, cultivating the deep roots that connect art, nature, and neighborhoods.