Hank Willis Thomas

Gala honoree Hank Willis Thomas with a patterned shirt and blue pants sitting on a stool in front of a yellow wall.

Hank Willis Thomas '98 lives and works in Brooklyn, NY as a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad including the International Center of Photography, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Musée du quai Branly, Hong Kong Arts Centre, and the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art.

His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black MalesIn Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth)The Writing on the Wall, and For Freedoms. In 2017, For Freedoms was awarded the ICP Infinity Award for New Media and Online Platform. Thomas is a recipient of the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2019), The Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), Soros Equality Fellowship (2017), Aperture West Book Prize (2008), Renew Media Arts Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation (2007), and the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Award (2006). He is also a member of the Public Design Commission for the City of New York.

Most recently in January 2023, Thomas unveiled The Embrace on Boston Common, a monument to Dr. Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King. Additional public artworks across the country include "Unity" in Brooklyn, NY. In 2017, “Love Over Rules” permanent neon was unveiled in San Francisco, CA and “All Power to All People” in Opa Locka, FL. Thomas holds a B.F.A. from New York University, New York, NY (1998) and an M.A./M.F.A. from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA (2004). He received honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute of Art, Baltimore, MD and the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, Portland, ME in 2017 and the Healing our Divided Leadership Award from the Eisenhower Foundation in 2023. 

photo credit: Jai Lennard