The Woody Guthrie Prize is given annually to an artist who best exemplifies Woody Guthrie’s spirit and work by speaking for the less fortunate through music, film, literature, dance or other art forms and serving as a positive force for social change.
“We hope that the Woody Guthrie Prize will shed an inspirational light on those who have decided to use their talents for the common good rather than for personal gain,” says Woody Guthrie’s daughter Nora. “With his dry wit, Woody always preferred to call himself a ‘commonist.’ His quote from John Steinbeck’s character, Tom Joad, says it pretty simply: ‘Wherever children are hungry and cry, wherever people ain’t free, wherever men are fightin’ for their rights, that’s where I’m gonna be.’
“There are so many people who are living this credo, and they’re the ones we will be honoring.”
Pussy Riot will be honored as the 2023 Woody Guthrie Prize recipient at Cain’s Ballroom Saturday, May 6. The Russian feminist protest and performance art group became popular for its provocative punk rock music. Maria “Masha” Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova will accept the prize on behalf of Pussy Riot, which also will be represented by Olga Borisova, Diana Burkot, Taisiya Krugovykh, Vasily Bogatov, and Alexander Cheparukhin at the May 6 event at Cain’s Ballroom.
Founded in August 2011, members of the group have been repeatedly imprisoned in Russia for speaking out on human rights issues in their home country. The prize presentation will anchor a weekend of activities that will also feature the legendary Ramblin’ Jack Elliott with Sarah Lee Guthrie and Robert Carradine in a special members-only concert.
“As artists who, like Woody Guthrie, have the courage of their convictions, there are no contemporary artists more worthy of this recognition than Pussy Riot,” said Cady Shaw, director of the Woody Guthrie Center. “They have paid a very personal price for speaking their minds on the most serious issues of our time, yet they continue to fight for justice and freedom.”
In a statement, Pussy Riot Creator Nadya Tolokonnikova said, “It feels fitting to be awarded in the spirit of Woody, I think he would love Pussy Riot’s anti-fascist message.
Usually, when Pussy riot gets added to lists, it’s not always a good thing, but we are honored to be on this one.
We don’t really do folk, but we don’t really do punk either, we simply scream and protest as loud as we can, and hope we can show others they can do the same. Like Woody said, any fool can make something complicated, our message is clear and simple. Anyone can be Pussy Riot. Riot. Riot. Resist.
Oh and a quick reminder to Vladimir Putin and anyone who supports his Z regime …
All you fascists are bound to lose.”
Proceeds from the annual event help support the Woody Guthrie Center®, which features state-of-the-art, interactive exhibits on his life, art and creative legacy. The center is home to Woody Guthrie’s comprehensive archives, including the original, handwritten version of his landmark anthem, “This Land is Your Land,” which is available for viewing at the center.