Dipankar Mukherjee receives McKnight Foundation’s Distinguished Artist Award

Mukherjee was awarded US $100,000 as part of the award.

Yasmin Tinwala

Dipankar Mukherjee / McKnight Foundation

Minneapolis-based Indian American artistic director Dipankar Mukherjee was awarded the McKnight Distinguished Artist Award 2023 by the McKnight Foundation. The award, which is presented annually to a resident of Minnesota who has made significant contributions to the state's cultural life, comes with a cash prize of US $100,000. 

“In addition to being a superb, internationally renowned director, Dipankar is a tenacious community–based changemaker, mobilizer, and healer,” said DeAnna Cummings, director of the arts and culture program at McKnight Foundation. “He continues to search for justice through art and push for change in the theater sector and the world through work that is unique and daring.”   

Mukherjee, a native of Kolkata, is the artistic director of Pangea World Theater, an innovative venue for the arts and open discourse which he co-founded in 1995. In the 28 years since co-founding Pangea with his partner Meena Natarajan, Mukherjee has “embraced the stories of many cultures, building bridges and inspiring artists and community members to address urgent social concerns through art,” the McKnight Foundation said. 

Mukherjee has been a director for over 25 years, during which time he has worked in India, England, Canada, and the United States and been honored with several major awards. He was awarded a Bush Fellowship and a Humphrey Institute Fellowship to Salzburg and served as a Ford Foundation delegate in India and Lebanon. He was also invited to the White House as part of a delegation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).

Mukherjee was also a founding member of Longfellow Rising, a coalition that worked to restore justice and equity to the neighborhood following the destruction of property in the wake of George Floyd's murder.

“Dipankar searches for justice through an artistic process that is, for lack of a better word, truly spiritual,” said Sharon Day, who was one of the people who nominated Mukherjee for the McKnight award. “He believes the beauty of the artistic process with its dissonances and its creative energy can heal our outer world and our spirits. He has touched so many lives, encouraged so many artists, and always speaks truth to power.”