Yale Announces First Sylvia Ardyn Boone Prize in Art History

Yale University’s History of Art and African and African-American Studies departments have named graduate student David Doris the first winner of the Sylvia Ardyn Boone Prize. Sylvia Boone, a noted scholar of African art, was the first tenured African-American woman on the Yale faculty. To honor her life and work, Vera Wells Yale ‘71 established this prize to be given annually to the best written work by a graduate student on African or African-American art.

A committee of faculty members from the participating departments made the selection. Professor Professor Mary Miller, who heads the Art History Department, chaired the committee.

Mr. Doris was chosen for his essay, “The Wind and the Agglomerate Sphere: Looking at an Mframa Shrine from Tanoso Village, Techiman State, Ghana.” His paper was called “a brilliant synthesis of post-structuralist theory and…ethnographic and visual analysis,” according to Assistant Professor of Art History Judith Wilson, who adds, “This study demonstrates a rare blend of conceptual sophistication and literary grace.”

A 1983 graduate of Southampton College of Long Island University, Mr. Davis earned a Master of Arts degree from Hunter College of the City University of New York. His hometown is Smithtown, New York.

Sylvia Ardyn Boone joined the Yale faculty in 1979, where she remained until her death in 1993. When she was promoted to a full professorship in 1988, she became the first African-American woman to be granted tenure at Yale. A graduate of Brooklyn College 1960 , Ms. Boone earned a master’s degree in social sciences from ColumbiaUniversity 1964 and studied briefly at the University of Ghana, where she became friends with W.E.B. DuBois, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou and other prominent African-Americans. After some years as a teacher, translator, and journalist, she returned to academia, earning her master’s and doctoral degrees in art history from Yale. Her doctoral dissertation, “Sowo Art in Sierra Leone: The Mind and Power of Woman on the Plane of the Aesthetic Disciplines,” won the Blanshard Prize in 1979.

At Yale, Professor Boone was a long-time faculty resident of Timothy Dwight College. She played a pivotal role in organizing the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the 1839 Amistad Affair, a milestone in the fight to end slavery in America and an important piece of New Haven’s history. She wrote and lectured extensively, served as a consultant to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art, and received grants and fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Roothbert Fund, Inc., the Menil Foundation, the American Association of University Women, and others.

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325