Seitu Jones.

Seitu Jones Wins 2017 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award

The McKnight Foundation has selected visual artist Seitu Jones as this year’s McKnight Distinguished Artist Award winner. The annual honor, now in its twentieth year, provides $50,000 cash to an individual Minnesota artist who has made a significant contribution to the state’s cultural life.

“With grand-scale designs that have been built into the foundation of Minneapolis’s Nicollet Mall and St. Paul’s Green Line transit system, Seitu Jones’ artistic vision has become an indelible part of Minnesota’s cultural landscape,” said Kate Wolford, president of McKnight. “Over the course of a wide-ranging career in painting, sculpture, theater arts, public works, and environmental design, Seitu Jones has demonstrated what’s possible when an artist with a hopeful vision and a generous spirit sets down deep roots in his community.”

The selection committee included Lori Pourier, president of the First Peoples Fund; Sandra Agustin, a choreographer and arts consultant; Eleanor Savage, artist and program director of the Jerome Foundation; Rohan Preston, a performing arts critic at the Star Tribune; and Brian Frink, artist and chair of the department of art at the Minnesota State University in Mankato.

Born in Minneapolis in 1951, Jones was deeply influenced by the Black Arts Movement and its central belief that artists have an obligation to leave their communities “more beautiful than they found it.” Jones, who served as the first artist in residence for the city of Minneapolis, has created more than thirty large-scale public artworks. In 2014, he integrated artwork into three stations for the new Greenline Light Rail Transit system in the Twin Cities. The artist is also known for spearheading a number of green-space initiatives. In 2013, he developed “CREATE: The Community Meal,” a dinner for two thousand people at a table a half a mile long. He is currently working to plant one thousand trees in Frogtown, the neighborhood where he lives, and create a five-acre farm in a new St. Paul city park.