Cynthia Hopkins

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2015

New York, NY

Cynthia Hopkins is a writer, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and theatre artist creating original works that investigate innovative forms of communication, melding music, text, video, and technical and theatrical design. She rose to recognition with a trilogy of works around memory and mortality: The Success of Failure (or, The Failure of Success) (2009), Must Don’t Whip Um (2007), and Accidental Nostalgia (2004), which were awarded grants from the MAAF USArtists Touring grant (2009), the MAP Fund (2008), and the Arts Presenters Ensemble Theatre Collaborations scheme (2006, 2008). Her musical performance work addressing the climate crisis, This Clement World (2013), received a MAP Fund grant (2011) and toured extensively. She has received a Foundation for Contemporary Arts award (2015), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2010), and the Alpert Award in the Arts (2007). Among her several new projects are a podcast titled Moving to Philadelphia (launched March 2016); and a new performance work titled Articles of Faith, about a catastrophic fire that destroyed her home (scheduled to premiere at American Dance Institute in April 2017).

  • Cynthia Hopkins
  • A Living Documentary (2014)
  • The Success of Failure (or, the Failure of Success) (2009)
  • Must Don't Whip Um (2007)
  • Photo: Pavel Antonov
  • Credit: Ian Douglas

What are your key goals for the award period? What challenges, desires, drives, or needs are inspiring these goals?

My primary goal is to build sustainability in my career and my life, by treating these areas (professional and personal) as intertwined and interdependent. The inspiration for this goal was a nervous breakdown I experienced recently (resulting from years of independently producing large scale musical performance works at a personal financial loss) converging with encouragement from a generous supporter of my work to create a five-year business plan. Creating a business plan granted me agency, by forcing me to consider the future. For the first time in my life, rather than allowing myself to be fueled by creative inspiration without regard for holistic consequences, I paused and meditated on a comprehensive future vision, considering not only what I might want to accomplish creatively, but also how such a vision might be feasible, and most importantly, what feasibility might mean for my daily experience of life.