Black and white headshot of Michelle Ellsworth

Michelle Ellsworth Wins $80,000 Doris Duke Award

Photo of Michelle Ellsworth by Satchel SpencerMichelle Ellsworth, associate director of the ATLAS Institute’s Center for Media, Arts and Performance (CMAP) and associate professor at CU’s department of Theatre and Dance has won an $80,000 Doris Duke Impact Award—one of 100 artists recognized by the foundation for their work in the fields of music, theater and dance.

A soloist and independent performance artist, Ellsworth’s work incorporates absurdity, humor, improvised dialogue, social commentary and technology with her dance, choreography and video, dealing with topics related to science, politics, feminism and the history of art.

“​Performance artist Michelle Ellsworth’s onstage persona is a fascinating mix of humility and daring, mockery and gentleness,” writes Westword’s Juliet Wittman. “She comes across as a deferential satirist, a playful deep thinker, someone who expresses serious concerns with effervescent humor, operating sideways and using movement, objects and a highly eccentric take on everyday concerns to make her point.”

Relying on nominations from prior recipients of Impact Awards, the foundation’s goal is to provide artists the opportunity to “expand their freedom to take creative risks, explore new ideas, and pay for important professional and personal needs.” Responding to the award, Ellsworth said, “Because of the nature and flexibility of this award, I just know that it will ultimately subsidize my very worst ideas—and when I say worst ideas, I mean my best ideas, the hard sells that no one else would fund.”


This image of Ellsworth is featured in the linked Jan. 9, 2015 New York Times article by Siobhan Burke. (Photo by Bernard Grant)

Self-deprecation aside, Ellsworth has a long list of accomplishments, with projects commissioned by the National Performance Network, Diverseworks, Dance Theater Workshop, On The Boards, and Danspace Project. She has performed and taught at Brown University, Columbia College, Naropa University, The University of Costa Rica and in Ireland. In 2011, she was selected for a $50,000 USA Fellowship Grant, also designed to put unrestricted funds directly into the hands of talented artists. Ellsworth earned her MFA in dance from the University of Colorado—Boulder, and her BA from New York University. She has been a CU-Boulder faculty member since 2000. 

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