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Arts Icon Yoko Ono Honored with Prestigious MacDowell Medal in Recognition of Work Across Disciplines

- April 22, 2024

Type: Press Releases, Artist News, Events

Photo by Bjarke Ørsted

Photo by Bjarke Ørsted

The artist, musician, and activist will be celebrated during a free outdoor public celebration on July 21 featuring artists’ open studios.

Arts icon and activist Yoko Ono is this year’s recipient of the prestigious Edward MacDowell Medal. Ono, whose ground-breaking and influential career as an artist began in the downtown New York scene in the early 1960s and has continued across seven decades, has developed a body of work encompassing performance, experimental filmmaking, conceptual and participatory art, music, visual arts, and global peace activities. The breadth of her pioneering work runs from the avant-garde to the pop and dance music charts.

“It’s an incredible honor that my mother, Yoko Ono, will be awarded the MacDowell Medal,” said her son Sean Ono Lennon. "The history and list of past recipients is truly remarkable. It makes me very proud to see her art appreciated and celebrated in this way.”

MacDowell, the nation’s oldest and preeminent artist residency program, has awarded the Medal annually since 1960 to giants of the art world, selecting individuals who have had an indelible impact on culture.

“MacDowell is honored to celebrate Yoko Ono for her groundbreaking, distinctly inventive, and enormously influential interdisciplinary art,” said Madam Chairman of the Board, Fellow, and best-selling author Nell Painter. “There has never been anyone like her; there has never been work like hers. Over some seven decades, she has rewarded eyes, provoked thought, inspired feminists, and defended migrants through works of a wide-ranging imagination. Enduringly fresh and pertinent, her uniquely powerful oeuvre speaks to our own times, so sorely needful of her leitmotif: Peace.”

Painter will present the 64th MacDowell Medal to Ono’s long-time music manager David Newgarden in a brief ceremony on Medal Day, Sunday, July 21. Ono, the first Asian woman to receive the honor, joins a notable cohort of past Medal recipients, including Robert Frost (1962), Willem de Kooning (1975), Isamu Noguchi (1982), Louise Bourgeois (1990), Stephen Sondheim (2013), Toni Morrison (2016), David Lynch (2017), and Art Spiegelman (2018).

“Her seminal performance work Cut Piece confronts issues of gender, class, and cultural identity, immediately becoming the feminist classic it remains,” added Painter. “Early in the Vietnam War, Ono and her husband John Lennon collaborated on ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and ‘War Is Over,’ adding ‘If you want it.’ Words we cherish right now. Only one other interdisciplinary artist, Merce Cunningham in 2003, has received the Edward MacDowell Medal. We are thrilled that Yoko Ono has honored us in this way.”

Read a brief biography of Yoko Ono here.

American avant-garde multimedia artist, Grammy-winning composer, and musician Laurie Anderson chaired this year’s Medal selection panel. Other members included Bushwick Starr Arts Center cofounder and MacDowell Board member Noel Allain, MacDowell Fellow and acclaimed choreographer Bebe Miller, National Black Theatre CEO Sade Lythcott, MacDowell Fellow and interdisciplinary artist Christopher Doyle, and Arts Student League Artistic & Executive Director Michael Hall.

The presentation of the Edward MacDowell Medal in the Arts is a free, public event on July 21, 2024, which often draws more than 1,000 visitors from around the country to MacDowell’s 450-acre wooded campus. It is the one day each year the grounds are open to the public, and it offers arts lovers the opportunity to visit 31 open, working studios to see art being created and speak with the artists-in-residence.

MacDowell is now on the Bloomberg Connects app, and the public can download a free digital guide to MacDowell to plan their Medal Day. Download the app and find our mobile guide by clicking here.

This event is made possible with the support of generous individual contributors and business sponsors including FL Putnam and RiverMead Lifecare Community.