84-Year-Old Detroit Artist, Educator Honored With $50,000 Lifetime Achievement Award

Shirley Woodson received the 2021 Kresge Eminent Artist award — one of the highest honors for Detroit artists who have dedicated themselves to their craft.

Kresge Arts in Detroit
Kresge Arts in Detroit

Shirley Woodson has joined the small, elite club of Detroiters who can call themselves a Kresge Eminent Artist.

The 13th Detroit artist to receive the award, she joins the ranks of visual artists like Charles McGee and Marie Woo as well as musician Marcus Belgrave.

The 84-year-old figurative painter and arts educator, who retired from teaching in 2008, is honored for “devoting decades to broadening education and exhibition opportunities for generations of African American artists, and for championing art as an essential lens into Detroit’s history and culture,” according to a press release from Kresge.

As the 2021 Kresge Eminent Artist, she’ll receive a $50,000 purse and a short film documenting her and her work that will premiere at a virtual celebration in April.

Funded by the Kresge Foundation, the Kresge Eminent Artist awards — along with Kresge Artist Fellowships and Gilda Awards — are administered by the Kresge Arts in Detroit office at the College for Creative Studies.

With a career that spans six decades, Woodson’s work appears in 23 permanent collections around the country including the Detroit Institute of Arts and Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.

Click the audio player to hear Shirley Woodson and her son Senghor Reid discuss the 2021 Kresge Eminent Artist award:

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date

WDET is here to keep you informed on essential information, news and resources related to COVID-19.

This is a stressful, insecure time for many. So it’s more important than ever for you, our listeners and readers, who are able to donate to keep supporting WDET’s mission. Please make a gift today.

Donate today »


  • Ryan Patrick Hooper

    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.