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The Council for the Arts at MIT has awarded the 1999 Gyorgy Kepes Fellowship Prize to Howard Wesley Johnson, MIT president emeritus. In addition, the Council has named New York-based interdisciplinary art duo, Ricardo Scofidio and Elizabeth Diller, winner of the 1999 Eugene McDermott Award.
The awards will be presented on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 28 and 29, at the Council's 27th annual meeting, which will focus on architecture.
The Kepes Prize is named for Institute Professor Emeritus Gyorgy Kepes, founder of MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies, who is celebrated internationally for his work exploring the relationship between art and science, and art and the environment. The $2,500 award is given annually to a member of the MIT community "whose creative work reflects the vision and values of Gyorgy Kepes" and "who has demonstrated excellence in the creative arts."
Professor Johnson has been associated with MIT for more than 40 years, coming to the Institute in 1955 as associate professor of management and director of the Sloan Fellows Program. He became professor and dean of the Sloan School of Management in 1959, serving until 1966. As MIT's 12th president, during the turbulent years of 1966-71, he was the driving force behind many important changes, including the creation of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, Independent Activities Period, freshmen pass/fail, and the Wellesley Exchange Program. He was chairman of the MIT Corporation from 1971-83.
Professor Johnson recalled that Calder's Great Sail was the first MIT structure he "unveiled" during his tenure as president. "Awareness, involvement and appreciation of all the arts can expand the educational horizon of every MIT student and staff member," he said. "The growth of the arts at MIT has served to strengthen the educational system at MIT."
Named in memory of Eugene McDermott, a benefactor to the Institute in education and the arts, the $5,000 McDermott Award is given annually to an artist "for the highest level of achievement in the visual, literary or performing arts, whose work the Council believes to be underappreciated."
Diller+Scofidio is a collaborative team formed in 1979 to create interdisciplinary work that incorporates architecture and the performing and visual arts. In 1999, the partnership received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship -- the first awarded in the field of architecture -- for the creation of an alternative form of architectural practice that unites design, performance and electronic media with cultural and architectural theory and criticism.
Ricardo Scofidio is a professor at the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at the Cooper Union and Elizabeth Diller is associate professor of architecture at Princeton University. As part of the award stipulation, they will take part in a future residency to work with MIT students and faculty.
The Council for the Arts at MIT is a volunteer organization of MIT alumni/ae and friends founded in 1972 to foster the visual, literary and performing arts at the Institute. The Council provides support for many performances, exhibitions, arts facilities and co-curricular programs at MIT through its unique grants program and standing committees.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 27, 1999.