Interdisciplinary artist Pamela Z awarded 2022 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT

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Interdisciplinary artist Pamela Z awarded 2022 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT
Award includes $100K prize, artist residency, gala, concert, and lecture/demo at MIT.

CAMBRIDGE, MA.- Massachusetts Institute of Technology is pleased to announce that interdisciplinary artist Pamela Z is the recipient of the 2022 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT. The $100K prize awarded at a gala in her honor also includes an artist residency at MIT in spring 2023, during which Pamela Z will perform selections from her work in a concert open to the public on April 19, 2023, then will present a public lecture/demonstration on April 20, 2023. A pioneering composer, performer, and interdisciplinary artist for more than four decades, Pamela Z has toured to major festivals and venues worldwide. She works with voice, live electronic processing, sampled sound, and video, and is known for using custom music technology, activated by physical gesture, to explore deeply personal themes. This McDermott residency builds on her prior visits to MIT in 2013 and 2016, during which she worked with students, fellow visiting artists, and other members of the campus community.

Pamela Z’s remarks upon receiving the award:

"It’s a tremendous honor to receive the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT. As an artist whose work crosses disciplines and relies on integrating new technologies, I’m delighted by this kind of recognition from such a prestigious and innovative institution. I’ve had the privilege of visiting MIT in the past and interacting with their Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST), and I’m thrilled to be invited back to accept this distinguished Award."

The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT recognizes innovative talents and is awarded to artists working in any field or cross-disciplinary activity. The $100,000 prize represents an investment in the recipient’s future creative work, rather than a prize for a particular project or lifetime of achievement. The official announcement was made at the Council for the Arts at MIT’s 49th annual meeting at MIT on September 30, 2022, and Pamela Z will be presented with the award at a gala in her honor on April 20, 2023. Past recipients include Thomas Heatherwick, Audra McDonald, David Adjaye, Olafur Eliasson, Robert Lepage, Gustavo Dudamel, Bill Viola, Suzan Lori Parks, and Santiago Calatrava, among others.

From MIT Associate Provost and Ford International Professor of History Philip S. Khoury:

“We look forward to welcoming Pamela Z and presenting her with MIT’s highest award in the arts. More than 1,700 students participate in our music classes and ensembles each year. Her pioneering work will be an inspiration, especially for the large number of students interested in electronic music and digital instrument design. Their creativity is supported by the Voxel Lab for digital music and visual arts innovation and the new music building under construction.”

Campus Residency and Public Programs

A distinctive feature of the Award is a short residency at MIT, which includes a public presentation of the artist’s work, substantial interaction with students and faculty, and a gala that convenes national and international leaders in the arts. The goal of the residency is to provide the recipient with unparalleled access to the creative energy and cutting-edge research at the Institute and to develop mutually enlightening relationships in the MIT community.

2022 Public Programs by Pamela Z at MIT

Pamela Z will present two Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT public programs:
Concert: April 19, 2023
Artist lecture/demonstration: April 20, 2023
Further information about the public programs will be posted at

Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts

The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT was established in 1974 by Margaret McDermott (1912-2018) in honor of her husband, Eugene McDermott (1899-1973), a co-founder of Texas Instruments and long-time friend and benefactor of MIT. The award is presented by the Council for the Arts at MIT.

The award is bestowed upon individuals whose artistic trajectory and body of work have achieved the highest distinction in their field and indicate they will remain leaders for years to come. The award recognizes innovative talents in any arts discipline and offers its recipient a $100,000 cash prize and a campus residency. The McDermott Award reflects MIT’s commitment to risk-taking, problem solving, and connecting creative minds across disciplines.

Council for the Arts at MIT

The Council for the Arts at MIT is a volunteer group of alumni and friends who support the arts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Appointed by the President of MIT to three-year terms, Council members continuously fulfill their mission “to foster the arts at MIT and to act as a catalyst for the development of a broadly based, highly participatory program in the arts. Since it was established in 1974, the award has been bestowed upon 38 individuals who work in performing, visual, and media arts, as well as authors, art historians, and patrons of the arts.

Past Recipients

2020: Thomas Heatherwick, designer
2018: Audra McDonald, actress and singer
2016: David Adjaye, architect
2014: Olafur Eliasson, visual artist
2012: Robert Lepage, performance and media artist
2010: Gustavo Dudamel, conductor
2009: Bill Viola, visual artist
2006: Suzan Lori Parks, playwright/novelist
2005: Santiago Calatrava, engineer/architect
2004: Libby Larsen, composer
2003: Vinie Burrows, activist/actress/writer
2001: Isaac Julien, filmmaker
2000: CORE Ensemble
1999: Diller + Scofidio, architects
1998: Junot Daz, author
1997: Toni Dove, video artist
1996: Kenny Leon, theater director
1995: Jeff Wall, photographer
1994: Tan Dun, composer
1993: Thomas Hanrahan & Victoria Meyers, architects
1992: Richard Preston, author
1991: Rebecca Purdum, artist
1990: Agnes Denes, artist
1989: Ida Ely Rubin, art historian
1988: Yulla Lipchitz, photographer
1986: Richard Leacock, filmmaker
1985: Harold E. Edgerton, photographer
1984: I.M. Pei, architect
1983: Albert R. Gurney, Jr., playwright
1982: Roy Lamson, arts administrator
1981: Henry Moore, sculptor
1980: Luis A. Ferre, arts patron
1979: Jerome B. Wiesner, President of MIT, arts patron
1978: Catherine N. Stratton, Founder, Council for the Arts, arts patron
1977: James R. Killian, Jr., President Emeritus, MIT
1976: Paul Tishman, Founder, Council for the Arts, arts patron
1975: Klaus Liepmann, conductor, founder of the music program at MIT
1974: Gyrgy Kepes, artist, founder of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT (CAVS)

Pamela Z

Pamela Z’s signature instruments are her classically trained bel canto voice and bespoke, gesture-activated audio controllers. Throughout a long and innovative career, she has pioneered the use of interactive technology in solo performance, layering and transforming her vocalizations into a wide variety of sounds and images. Her projects resist classification, blending elements of music, spoken word, dance, theater, and visual art.

Once described by a fellow artist in the New York Times as a “wild virtuoso,” she has invented her own artistic path. Since putting down roots in the 1980s in the San Francisco Bay Area contemporary art and performance scene, she has brought her work to venues and festivals including New York’s Bang on a Can, Japan’s Interlink, San Francisco’s Other Minds, Italy’s Venice Biennale, and Senegal’s Dakar Biennale. In addition to solo and collaborative performances, she has composed scores for dance, film, and chamber ensembles (including Kronos Quartet and Eighth Blackbird). Her sound-and-video installations have appeared at major exhibition spaces around the world.

Pamela Z’s affinity for technology manifests not only in her creative tools but as a recurring theme in her work—from the parallels between how humans and computers save information (Memory Trace, 2015) to scientific data about ecological changes (Carbon Song Cycle, 2013). Other works throughout her career have drawn on her experiences as a traveling artist (Baggage Allowance, 2010; Gaijin, 2001) and delved into the nature of language and communication (Voci, 2003; Parts of Speech, 1998).

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