We are proud to congratulate Vilcek prizewinners Carmen C. Bambach and Yaa Gyasi on being honored this year as part of the “Great Immigrants, Great Americans” program of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Carmen was awarded the 2019 Vilcek Prize for Excellence in Art History; Yaa is recipient of a 2020 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature.
Announced each Fourth of July with a full-page advertisement in the New York Times, “Great Immigrants, Great Americans” salutes the values of democracy, freedom of expression, and equality championed by the Declaration of Independence. Through the program, the Carnegie Corporation honors immigrants whose work, experience, and contributions to society exemplify the value of immigration to scientific discovery and to the arts and culture in the United States.
Carmen C. Bambach is a curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. An immigrant from Chile, she is the preeminent scholar on Leonardo da Vinci and other Renaissance masters. Her work has had an enormous influence not only in the United States, but around the globe: She was influential in coordinating one of the first major transcontinental exhibitions of work by Michelangelo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017–18. In 2019, she published a four-volume work, Leonardo da Vinci Rediscovered—the result of more than 20 years of research, wherein Carmen explored more than 4,000 pages of drawings, writing, and manuscripts left by the artist, scientist and inventor to create an insightful biography and portrait of him through his work.
Yaa Gyasi is a Ghanaian-born novelist and writer living in Brooklyn. Her debut novel, Homegoing, was released in 2016 to enormous acclaim. The literary novel chronicles the experiences of seven generations of a family, starting with two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, born in Ghana in the mid-1700s. In each chapter, Yaa explores issues of diaspora, race, intergenerational trauma, gender and immigration through one of Effia or Esi’s descendants. Yaa is a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree, and received an American Book Award, and a PEN/Hemingway Award, among many others, for Homegoing. Her second novel, Transcendent Kingdom, will be released on September 1, 2020.
“Given our current political climate, it is particularly important that we recognize the profound value that immigration has for the United States, and we are grateful to the Carnegie Corporation for this program,” said Jan Vilcek, CEO and chairman of the Vilcek Foundation. “These honors resonate deeply with our core values: to recognize and celebrate the diversity of ways that immigrant professionals’ work enriches American society. While we are uniquely proud of Carmen and Yaa as our foundation’s prizewinners, we congratulate all of this year’s honorees.”