Hamza Walker Wins $100,000 Ordway Prize

February 5, 2010 · Print This Article

Hamza Walker, Director of Education and Associate Curator of The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago

Congratulations to Hamza Walker, curator at The Renaissance Society — it has just been announced that he’s won the Ordway Prize from Creative Link for the Arts and the New Museum!  Walker, along with artist Artur Å»mijewski, will receive an unrestricted award of $100,000. Here’s the text of the announcement in full:

“Creative Link for the Arts and the New Museum have announced Hamza Walker, the Director of Education and Associate Curator at Chicago’s Renaissance Society, and Polish artist Artur Å»mijewski, as the recipients of the Ordway Prize. An international panel of Nominators and a Jury of leading arts world figures-led by Jennifer McSweeney, Director of Creative Link for the Arts, and Richard Flood, Chief Curator at the New Museum-selected the Ordway Prize recipients from a global pool of nominees. Walker and Å»mijewski will each receive an unrestricted cash prize of $100,000.

“Working with artists is a reward in itself, and I feel privileged at being so generously honored for my passion. I wish I had a grand vision for the award, but as it stands, the bricks and mortar of my life are in severe need of tuckpointing,” said Hamza Walker.

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Is the $100,000 Ordway Prize Too Much?

November 18, 2009 · Print This Article

I’d never heard of the Ordway Prize until a few weeks ago, when two highly respected Chicago-based arts professionals (artist Tania Bruguera, who also lives in Havana, Cuba, and Hamza Walker, curator at the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago) were included on this year’s list of finalists. The Ordway Prize is a relatively new award, established in 2005 as a joint effort by Creative Link for the Arts and the New Museum. The selection process for the Ordway Prize is outlined on the New Museum’s website as follows (excerpt):

The prize acknowledges the contributions of a Curator/Arts Writer and an Artist whose work has had significant impact on the field of contemporary art, but who has yet to receive broad public recognition. Finalists for the Ordway Prize are midcareer talents between the ages of forty and sixty-five, with a developed body of work extending over a minimum of fifteen years.

Now, it’s always great to see behind-the-scenes culture professionals get recognized for their outstanding work. This goes double for curators, who get paid relatively little and yet play such a critical role in bringing art to the public.  So if a little cash gets thrown at said curators while recognizing their contributions to the field, that’s nice too. I’m not of the view that culture workers need to be poor to have integrity. That said, however, I think that $100,000  is an inordinate amount of money given the fact that a) the prize is unrestricted and b) this year’s nominees, as well as past Ordway Prize winners, are institutionally-affiliated curators as opposed to those working independently and earning income on a project-by-project basis. Read more