Openly gay choreographer Bill T. Jones has been awarded the 12th Wexner Prize, the Wexner Center for the Arts announced Monday. The $50,000 prize is given annually "to a major contemporary artist in any artistic field who has been consistently original, influential, and challenging to convention," according to the Ohio-based institution's Web site. Previous winners include director Peter Brook in 1992, painter Gerhard Richter in 1998, and last year designer Issey Miyake. Jones also was to receive the Harlem Renaissance Award on Monday at the Aaron Davis Hall, along with Abbey Lincoln, Eddie Palmieri, and Miguel Algarin. On July 17 he will be honored with the prestigious $35,000 Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award.
"It's an embarrassment of riches. I don't know where all this is coming from," Jones told the Associated Press in an interview from Tempe, Ariz., where he is working on his latest dance piece. "I feel like my mother's voice begins to loom in the back of my head: 'When so many good things happen, something bad is going to happen."' The awards all resonate in different ways, Jones said. He cited his excitement about being acknowledged by the Harlem community, where the choreographer hopes to establish a permanent home for his company, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. The Scripps award offers validation from his peers after a career filled with controversy--including, most famously, New Yorker dance critic Arlene Croce's rejection of Jones's seminal work, 1994's Still/Here, as "victim art." But the Wexner Prize is the biggest shock, he said. "I am really bowled over by that, to know that people outside of my field recognize me.... This is a great, great honor and an encouragement to continue." (AP)