Spike Lee Awarded $300,000 Prize From Dorothy and Lillian Gish Foundation

Prize honors someone who made "outstanding contribution" to the world.

Posted: 09/20/2013 11:15 AM EDT

Spike Lee will recieve one of the highest honors in the art world this year. The filmmaker has won the 2013 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, which comes with a $300,000 check, the New York Times reports. 

The Gish Prize is given annually to "a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life." Lee beat out 30 other finalists for the lucrative award. It's the second year in a row that a Black artist was awarded the Gish Prize. Last year's winner was actress and activist Anna Deveare Smith.

“We honor Spike Lee for his brilliance and unwavering courage in using film to challenge conventional thinking, and for the passion for justice he feels in his soul,” said Darren Walker, chairman of the committee who selected the winner.

Lee, a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and now a professor there, said that actress Lillian Gish was important to his development as an artist. “Would you believe, two of the most important films that impacted me while I was studying at NYU starred Lillian Gish?” he said in a statement released by the Prize Trust. “Those films were D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation and Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter.” Both films had to do with race relations in America.

The iconic director recently wrapped up a successful Kickstarter campaign for an upcoming microbudget film. He raised $1.4 million in 30 days for the project. 

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(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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