March 20, 2017
6:30 p.m.
Concert Hall
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, D.C.
RSVP is Closed


Darren Walker

interpreting services will be providedInterpreting services will be provided.

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Lecturer Bio

Darren Walker is President of the Ford Foundation, the nation’s second largest philanthropy, and for two decades has been a leader in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. He led the philanthropy committee that helped bring a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy and chairs the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance.  Prior to joining Ford, he was Vice President at the Rockefeller Foundation where he managed the rebuild New Orleans initiative after Hurricane Katrina.  In the 1990s, as COO of Harlem’s largest community development organization, the Abyssinian Development Corporation, Darren oversaw a comprehensive revitalization program of central Harlem, including over 1,000 new units of housing. He had a decade long career in international law and finance at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and UBS.  He is a member of the Commission on the Future of Riker’s Island and serves on the boards of Carnegie Hall, New York City Ballet, the High Line, the Arcus Foundation and PepsiCo.  Educated exclusively in public schools, Darren received the “Distinguished Alumnus Award,” the highest honor given by his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin.  In 2016, TIME magazine named him to its annual list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of ten honorary degrees and university awards.

Special performance by Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith is an actress, playwright, teacher, and author. It has been said that she created a new form of theater. When she was granted the prestigious MacArthur Award, her work was described as “a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie.”

President Obama awarded her the National Endowment for the Humanities Medal. In 2015, she was named the Jefferson Lecturer, the nation’s highest honor in the humanities. She was twice a Tony award nominee. She is the recipient of the 2017 Ridenhour Courage Prize.

Americans for the Arts and the United States Conference of Mayors jointly awarded her an Artist Advocacy Award in 2011.

She is probably most recognizable in popular culture as the national security advisor on The West Wing, and hospital administrator Gloria Akalitus on Nurse Jackie. Films include The American President, Rachel Getting Married, Philadelphia, Dave, Rent, and The Human Stain.

Looking at current events from multiple points of view, Ms. Smith's theater combines the journalistic technique of interviewing her subjects with the art of interpreting their words through performance. These plays are a part of a series that she began in the early 1980s called On the Road: A Search For American Character. The most recent of those plays, Notes From the Field, explores issues of justice and opportunity in America. 

She is a professor at New York University.

Special introduction by Thelma Golden

Thelma Golden is Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, an art museum founded in 1968 whose mission is to serve as the nexus for artists of African descent locally, nationally and internationally. Golden began her career at the Studio Museum in 1987. In 1988, she joined the Whitney Museum of American Art and in the subsequent decade, she was on the curatorial team for the 1993 Biennial and also organized numerous groundbreaking exhibitions including 1994’s Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in American Art. She returned to the Studio Museum in 2000 as Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Programs, and was named Director and Chief Curator in 2005. While at the Studio Museum, Golden has organized many notable exhibitions including Chris Ofili: Afro Muses 1995-2005, Black Romantic, Freestyle, Frequency, Glenn Ligon: Stranger and Gordon Parks: A Harlem Family 1967.  Under her leadership, the Studio Museum has gained increasing renown as a global leader in the exhibition of contemporary art, a center for innovative education and a site for diverse audiences to exchange ideas about art and society.

Golden holds a B.A. in Art History and African American Studies from Smith College. She has received honorary doctorates from the City College of New York (2009), San Francisco Art Institute (2008), Smith College (2004), Moore College of Art and Design (2003), and in 2010 was awarded a Barnard Medal of Distinction from Barnard College. In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Golden to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, on which she served from 2010-2016. Golden currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Barack Obama Foundation and the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts. She received the 2016 Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. Golden is currently a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. In 2015, Golden was appointed as a Ford Foundation Art of Change Visiting Fellow. Golden is a recognized authority in contemporary art by artists of African descent and an active lecturer and panelist speaking about contemporary art and culture at national and international institutions. Her 2009 TED Talk, “How Art Gives Shape to Cultural Change,” examines how contemporary artists continue to shape dialogue about race, culture and community.