A new prize honoring the life and work of Sylvia Ardyn Boone, a Yale alumna and the first tenured African-American woman on the University's faculty, has been established by Vera Wells '71 B.A. The prize will be awarded annually for the best written work by a graduate student on African or African-American art.
Graduate student David Doris has been named as the first winner of the Boone Prize by the departments of the history of art and of African and African-American studies. His essay, "The Wind and the Agglomerate Sphere: Looking at a Mframa Shrine from Tanoso Village, Techiman State, Ghana," is "a brilliant synthesis of post-structuralist theory and ... ethnographic and visual analysis," according to Judith Wilson, assistant professor of the history of art. "This study demonstrates a rare blend of conceptual sophistication and literary grace."
Mr. Doris' paper was chosen by a committee of faculty members from the participating departments, which was headed by Mary Miller, chair of the history of art department.
Sylvia Ardyn Boone was the first scholar to study the ideas and ideals of beauty in African art and to examine how those ideals translated to women of color everywhere. Her work "Radiance from the Waters: Ideals of Feminine Beauty in Mende Art" provided an in- depth examination of the culture of the Mende women of Sierra Leone. She was also author of "West African Travels: A Guide to Peoples and Places."
A graduate of Brooklyn College, Professor Boone earned a master's degree in social sciences from Columbia University and studied briefly at the University of Ghana, where she became friends with such prominent African-Americans as W.E.B. DuBois, Malcolm X and Maya Angelou. After some years as a teacher, translator and journalist, she returned to academia, earning her master's and doctoral degrees in art history from Yale. (Her doctoral dissertation, "Sowo Art in Sierra Leone: The Mind and Power of Woman on the Plane of the Aesthetic Disciplines," won the Blanshard Prize in 1979.)
She joined the faculty in 1979 and was promoted to a full professorship in 1988. She remained at the University until her death in 1993.
At Yale, Professor Boone was a long-time faculty resident of Timothy Dwight College. She played a pivotal role in organizing the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the 1839 Amistad Affair. She wrote and lectured extensively, served as a consultant to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art, and received grants and fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Roothbert Fund, Inc., the Menil Foundation, the American Association of University Women and others.