Choreographer and theater artist Donald Byrd, longtime artistic director of Seattle’s Spectrum Dance Theater, has been named a 2019 Doris Duke Artist, which comes with a $275,000 award.
Byrd was one of six artists, including New York-based playwright Lauren Yee and Boston-based drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, named Tuesday who received the honor. The award, from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, is designed as “an investment in and celebration of these artists’ ongoing contributions to the fields of contemporary dance, jazz and theater,” according to a news release from the foundation. $250,000 of the prize is unrestricted; the remaining $25,000 is intended to encourage savings for retirement or later life needs.
“The work of these six artists has inspired creativity, new ideas and awe across the arts sector and beyond,” Maurine Knighton, program director for the arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, said in the news release.
Byrd has served as artistic director of Spectrum Dance Theater since 2002, during which he has taken the company in an edgier artistic direction, unafraid to explore issues of race, equity, gender, politics and war. Before that, he was the artistic director of contemporary dance company Donald Byrd/The Group.
He has created more than 100 dance works for his own groups as well for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadelphia Dance Company, Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem and others, according to Spectrum. He earned a Tony Award nomination for choreographing “The Color Purple,” and won a Bessie Award for choreographing “The Minstrel Show.”