2017 is quickly becoming the year of Viola Davis! On Saturday, Davis received Harvard University’s Artist of the Year Award from the Harvard Foundation. The honor comes less than week after Davis made history at the Academy Awards, where she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Fences”. The win made her the first Black woman to ever earn an Oscar, Emmy and Tony award for acting.
After Davis accepted the Artist of the Year award from Harvard professor and director of the Harvard Foundation, Dr. Allen Counter, she shared with the audience a powerful message about an artist’s role and responsibility to tell stories. Davis expressed: “I want people to be seen. I want them to feel less alone. I think Picasso is the one who said ‘I paint because I want to show people what’s going on behind the eyes.’ “
Davis, who grew up in Central Falls, Rhode Island, recently opened up to People Magazine about her humble beginnings. From enduring an impoverished childhood, to earning a full ride scholarship to college, to graduating from Juilliard (the world’s best university for performing arts), to making history at the 2015 Emmys and the 2017 Oscars, to being honored by Harvard University, Davis is living proof that it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. According to Davis, her incredible journey up to this point has been, “a culmination of dreaming big and your dreams being bigger than your circumstances.”
The other awards Davis received for her role in the film adaptation of August Wilson’s “Fences” include: Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, Screen Actors Guild, and British Academy of Films and Television Arts.
Viola, thank you for using your gifts and talents to tell our stories and inspire present and future artists.