Walter Hood 2019 Recipient

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Visionary Artist, Designer and Urbanist Walter Hood to Receive the 26th Annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize

Creator of Landscapes and Public Artworks That Transform Communities Across America, Hood Will Be Honored at November 20 Award Ceremony

New York, NY [October 8, 2019] — The Gish Prize Trust today announced that artist and designer Walter Hood has been selected to receive the 26th annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in recognition of his ongoing achievements in merging landscape, urbanism, and public art for the benefit of communities across America. Established in 1994 through the will of legendary stage and screen actress Lillian Gish, known as the First Lady of Cinema, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize is one of the most prestigious honors given to artists in the United States and bears one of the largest cash awards, currently valued at approximately $250,000.

The Gish Prize is given each year to a highly accomplished artist from any discipline who has pushed the boundaries of an art form, contributed to social change and paved the way for the next generation. The selection committee for the 2019 Gish Prize chose Hood from among more than 70 outstanding finalists in the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, and arts administration. Hood now joins a list of distinguished honorees who include 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.

The Gish Prize will be presented to Hood in a private award ceremony on the evening of Wednesday, November 20, at Lenfest Center for the Arts at Columbia University. The ceremony, attended by leaders of the arts community, will include remarks from Carol Becker, Dean of Faculty, School of the Arts and Professor of the Arts, Columbia University; Adam Clark, Managing Director and Global Head of Trust & Estates, J.P. Morgan Private Bank, which administers the award as trustee of the Gish Prize Trust; Mabel Wilson, Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University; Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director, The Public Theater; and Mary Miss, Gish Prize Selection Committee member and Founder of City as Living Laboratory. Blu Bailey will perform a spoken word piece about Hood’s work and Hood’s nephew J-Hood will perform a song.

Walter 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.”

Creative Director and Founder of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, CA, Walter Hood has been praised for “dissolving the boundaries between landscape architecture, urban design, and public art” while creating a “remarkably diverse and deeply evocative body of work,” as the American Academy of Arts and Letters said when presenting him with its 2017 architecture award. Hood’s most recent designs include the landscape of the International African American Museum, which is expected to open in Charleston, SC, in 2021; Double Sight, a sculptural installation about the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, to be unveiled on Princeton University’s Scudder Plaza in October 2019; and the reimagining of the outdoor gardens and terraces of the Oakland Museum of California, scheduled for completion in 2020. In addition to his studio work and writing, Hood serves as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and lectures on professional and theoretical projects nationally and internationally.

This year’s Prize selection committee was chaired by Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of The Public Theater. Commenting on the decision of the jury, Eustis said, “We found we were all asking similar questions about what an artist might do for people today. Who could reconnect us with the natural world and help us care for the environment, bring communities together and offer ways to think about our society, give us the experience of beauty we need and meanings we can live with? We realized that every question we asked had the same answer: Walter Hood. He 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.’”

The 2019 selection committee also included 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.

Speaking for JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., Adam Clark stated, “With the help of our esteemed selection committee, we have continued to support Lillian Gish’s vision of recognizing and celebrating those artists who have made an indelible impact through their work. In choosing Walter Hood, this year’s committee underscores the mission of the Prize to recognize and encourage the power of art to change lives, and to empower people everywhere to help change their world for the better. We congratulate Walter Hood on receiving this high honor.”

Walter Hood (b. 1958 in Fort Bragg, NC) earned a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from North Carolina A&T State University in 1981 and Master of Landscape and Master of Architecture degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1989. He subsequently earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in 2013 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1992, he established Hood Design Studio in Oakland, CA, as a tripartite practice, working across art and fabrication, design and landscape, and research and urbanism. The urban spaces and objects that Hood Design Studio develops act as public sculpture, creating new apertures through which to see the surrounding emergent beauty, strangeness and idiosyncrasies.

He has won acclaim for Courtland Creek (1997), Lafayette Square Park (1999), and Splashpad Park (2003) in Oakland; the Baldwin Hills Park Master Plan, Los Angeles (2002); the de Young Museum gardens in San Francisco (2005); the Oakland Waterfront Master Plan (2005); the Hill District Greenprint, Pittsburgh (2010); the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor, Los Angeles (2011); the Broad Museum Plaza in Los Angeles (2015); the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York (2015); Witness Walls in Nashville (2017); and the Rosa Parks Neighborhood Master Plan, Detroit (2018), among the many projects of Hood Design Studio.

His other awards include the Goldman Sachs Design Fellowship of the Smithsonian Institution (2011), the AIA Award for Collaborative Achievement (2011), the Dean’s Medal of the University of Buffalo (2014), nomination to the President’s National Council on the Arts (2014), the Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2017), and a Knight Foundation Public Spaces Fellowship (2019). He is the author of numerous publications, including Blues & Jazz Landscape Improvisations (Poltroon Press, 1993) and Walter Hood: Urban Diaries (Spacemaker Press, 1997).

About The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize

Established in 1994 through the will of Lillian Gish, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize is given annually to an individual who has “made an Established in 1994 through the will of Lillian Gish, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize is given annually to an individual who has “made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” Past recipients are Gustavo Dudamel, Meredith Monk, Elizabeth LeCompte, Suzan-Lori Parks, Maya Lin, Spike Lee, Anna Deavere Smith, Trisha Brown, Chinua Achebe, Pete Seeger, Robert Redford, Laurie Anderson, Shirin Neshat, Peter Sellars, Ornette Coleman, Bill T. Jones, Lloyd Richards, Jennifer Tipton, Merce Cunningham, Arthur Miller, Isabel Allende, Bob Dylan, Robert Wilson, Ingmar Bergman, and Frank Gehry. Prize recipients are nominated by the arts community and chosen by a distinguished committee of arts leaders for their groundbreaking work in their chosen fields. For further information, visit

About Dorothy and Lillian Gish

Dorothy and Lillian Gish followed their mother onto the stage at an early age. The older of the two sisters, Lillian took her first theatrical curtain call in 1902 at the age of eight in the play In Convict’s Stripes. In 1912, the sisters’ childhood friend Mary Pickford introduced them to D.W. Griffith, who launched their film careers. Lillian would become one of America’s best-loved actresses. In her 85-year career, she appeared in more than 100 films—from Griffith’s An Unseen Enemy (1912) to Lindsay Anderson’s The Whales of August (1987)—and also took numerous roles in television and on stage. Dorothy Gish began her stage career at the age of four and also went on to make more than 100 films, many of them with Lillian. Dorothy’s early work in film highlighted her keen sense of humor, bringing her acclaim as a star of comedy. At the end of the silent era, she turned her attention to the stage, where success in Young Love brought her accolades with New York audiences, on the road and subsequently in London. In 1939 Dorothy and Lillian each played Vinnie Day, wife of Clarence Day, Sr., in two extensive American road company productions of Life with Father. Dorothy returned to film and television in the 1950s. Upon her death in 1968, Dorothy Gish left the bulk of her estate to the arts. Lillian Gish died in 1993 and also left the bulk of her estate to the arts, including a trust for the formation of the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize.

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Photo by Julieta Cervantes

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