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Walter Hood. Photo: The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize.
Walter Hood. Photo: The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize.

Walter Hood Wins $250,000 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize

Artist Walter Hood, the head of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, California, has been selected as the winner of this year’s Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in recognition of his ongoing achievements in merging landscape, urbanism, and public art. Established in 1994 through the will of stage and screen actress Lillian Gish, the annual $250,000 award is one of the largest monetary prizes given to artists in the United States. The announcement comes two weeks after the artist won a MacArthur “Genius” Grant.

After learning that he was the recipient, Hood said: “When I look at the artists who have received the Gish Prize, it’s clear to me that this is not your typical award. It’s very much about people having a voice. So I am astonished, and deeply moved, that the Gish Prize jury has heard my voice. The work the studio has done for the past twenty years is often soft-spoken and can go unnoticed. I thank the Gish Prize for helping to bring it into the public conversation.”

Hood was chosen by a committee chaired by Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater, and consisting of Jamie Bennett, executive director of ArtPlace America; Mary Miss, founder and artistic director of City as Living Laboratory; and Edwin Torres, president and CEO of Grantmakers in the Arts. Commenting on the jury’s decision, Eustis said that the artist “embodies everything Lillian Gish asked for, when she said this prize should honor an artist who has made ‘an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world.’”

Born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1958, Hood earned a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from North Carolina A&T State University in 1981; master’s degrees in landscape and architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1989; and a master of fine arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013. In 1992, he established his own studio in Oakland, where it still operates today. The practice focuses on working across art and fabrication, design and landscape, and research and urbanism.

Hood’s recent projects include the landscape work for the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, the much anticipated opening of which is expected to take place in 2021; Double Sight, a sculptural tribute to Woodrow Wilson, which was unveiled on Princeton University’s Scudder Plaza over the weekend; and the outdoor gardens and terraces of the Oakland Museum of California, which will be completed sometime in 2020. In addition to his studio work and writing, Hood serves as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Among the former recipients of the Gish Prize are Gustavo Dudamel, Meredith Monk, Elizabeth LeCompte, Suzan-Lori Parks, Maya Lin, Anna Deavere Smith, Spike Lee, Trisha Brown, Laurie Anderson, Frank Gehry, Peter Sellars, and Bob Dylan. Hood will be presented with the honor at an award ceremony on Wednesday, November 20, at the Lenfest Center for the Arts at Columbia University.