Wadada Leo Smith Receives ‘Religion And The Arts Award’ From The American Academy Of Religion

November 28, 2018

The American Academy of Religion presented its Religion and the Arts Award to legendary composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith on Sunday, November 18 at their annual conference in Denver. 

Established in 2007, the Award is presented annually to an artist or critic who illuminates, or offers a new way of seeing, the relations among the arts and religions.  Previous winners include vocalist, director, and choreographer Meredith Monk; multimedia artist and miniaturist painter Shahzia Sikander; poet Gary Snyder; novelist Marilynne Robinson; and visual artist and writer Makoto Fujimura among others.  Smith is the 13th artist to win this award.

“Every year, the board solicits nominations from the Academy. In a year when we received strong nominations of visual artists, teachers, filmmakers, and more, Wadada Leo Smith stood out strongly,” said Jason C. Bivins, co-chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Religion and the Arts Jury.  “Across his long and diverse career, we found that Smith exemplifies all the qualities the committee seeks to honor. His music, thinking, and creativity are all extraordinary, of course. But what distinguishes Smith in our reckoning is his consistent success in enlarging his listeners’ understanding of religion’s multiple manifestations in American culture. From his nature suites to his historical pieces, from his Ankhrasmation language scores to his conceptual pieces, Smith is a public artist of the highest order. His art not only expresses his own deep religiosity; it sits at the center of many of America’s most vital artistic threads.  We are honored to present him with this year’s award.”

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