Aspen Institute Arts Program Announces 2014 Harman-Eisner Artists in Residence

April 9, 2014

Contact: Adam Erickson

Aspen Institute Arts Program Announces 2014 Harman-Eisner Artists in Residence 
Alfre Woodard and Lil Buck to Participate in 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival 

Washington, DC, (April 9, 2014)––The Aspen Institute Arts Program is pleased to announce that acclaimed actor Alfre Woodard and dancer Charles “Lil Buck” Riley will serve as its 2014 Harman-Eisner Artists in Residence. In this role, Woodard and Riley will participate at the Aspen Ideas Festival (June 27 – July 3) and engage in Institute activity\es throughout the year in New York, Washington, DC, and elsewhere.

Woodard and Riley have been integral to several key moments in the history of the Aspen Institute Arts Program since its inception in June 2011. Both participated in the second Aspen Arts Strategy Group, a Los Angeles convening in partnership with The Music Center of Los Angeles in March 2013 with the goal of facilitating artist engagement in a wide array of civic roles and spaces. Riley was a featured speaker at the 2013 Aspen Ideas Festival, where he joined a special discussion and demonstration highlighting the power of the arts to educate and engage in our nation’s classrooms. He also performed with 2013 Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence Yo-Yo Ma during the 2011 US-China Forum on the Arts and Culture in Beijing.

“Alfre Woodard and Lil Buck are artists whose work is a shining example of how the arts can benefit society. Beyond being artistically excellent, they put that excellence to use, helping us make progress in issues from education to equality,” said Arts Program Director and former ballet dancer Damian Woetzel. “Having Alfre and Lil Buck as Artists in Residence allows us to celebrate and promote their example of how the arts can be of service. I look forward to further developing their work through the opportunities that the Aspen Institute can uniquely provide.”

Alfre Woodard’s work as an actor has earned her an Oscar nomination, four Emmy Awards and 15 Emmy nominations, three SAG Awards, and a Golden Globe. As a long-time activist, Woodard co-founded Artists for a New South Africa, a nonprofit working to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and further the cause of democracy and human rights in South Africa. In 2008, Woodard served as a national surrogate for the 2008 Obama presidential campaign, and in 2009 she was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. As part of her work on the Committee, Woodard has adopted several high-poverty and under-performing public schools around the country, including ReNew Cultural Arts Academy in New Orleans and Noel Community Arts School in Denver. She is an active advocate for the arts in education, largely through her work on the Committee’s Turnaround Arts initiative, which Woetzel is also actively engaged in as a President’s Committee member. Turnaround Arts was launched in cooperation with the US Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council to narrow the achievement gap and increase student engagement through the arts. Woodard currently serves on the Creative Coalition.

“My assignment as a Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence has already made 2014 a landmark year for me,” Woodard said. “I’m excited to stir the pot with Lil Buck, and discover some dynamic new ways to use creativity in developing the whole person and thereby building community. I’m especially looking forward to walking away next year a smarter, more effective artist after this engagement with the Aspen Institute.”

Charles “Lil Buck” Riley is a dancer and leader of a style known as “Memphis jookin’.” In 2011, Arts Program Director Damian Woetzel paired Lil Buck with cellist Yo-Yo Ma in a collaboration that went viral on YouTube, and has to date been viewed more than two million times. Riley is an Artist in Residence at the Vail International Dance Festival, and is an active participant in arts education initiatives around the country. Riley also danced for Madonna during her Super Bowl XLVI halftime show, later joining her MDNA tour. In 2013, he appeared on “The Colbert Report,” and performed once more with Yo-Yo Ma in a special production conceived by Woetzel at New York City’s (Le) Poisson Rouge, for which Riley won a Bessie Award honoring innovative achievement in dance. Riley is currently featured in the Cirque du Soleil show “Michael Jackson: One” and will appear with the New York City Ballet in Spring 2014 as part of a special commissioned premiere choreographed by the famed street artist JR.

“I graduated from a school where I learned how vital having the arts in our education really is, to our youth and the world. I am truly passionate about inspiring youth through the art of dance,” Riley said.

“It is an honor to have the title of Artist in Residence at the Aspen Institute, and I look forward to playing my part in inspiring our youth to do something that will have a positive impact in this world. Children are our future, and by inspiring them, we help mold our future in the right way.”

The Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence program was inaugurated in July 2006 to ensure that the valuable ideas and perspectives of leading artists are shared in the Institute’s ongoing “Great Conversation” — in discussions related to arts and culture, but also in those related to the myriad other vital issues the program addresses, from urban development, education, and race to citizenship, domestic politics and foreign policy. Previous Harman-Eisner Artists in Residence have included cellist Yo-Yo Ma, director Julie Taymor, architect Elizabeth Diller, conductor Robert Spano, dancer and current Arts Program Director Damian Woetzel, author Tobias Wolff, painter Chuck Close, actor and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, stage director Stephen Wadsworth, and opera singer Jessye Norman.

“Alfre Woodard and Lil Buck are not only unbelievable artists and contributors, but they are perfect examples of artists willing to use their skills and gifts to help create a more compassionate and equitable country,” said Michael D. Eisner, Institute Trustee and chair of its Committee on the Arts. “I couldn’t be more proud to have them join us at the Aspen Institute this year.” 

Artists are selected and invited by the Aspen Institute Arts Program. Inquiries should be directed to Adam Erickson at (212) 895-8072 or

The Aspen Institute Arts Program was established to support and invigorate the arts in America, and to return the arts to the center of the Aspen Institute’s “Great Conversation.” Directed by Damian Woetzel, it brings together artists, advocates, educators, managers, foundations and government officials to exchange ideas and develop policies and programs that strengthen the reciprocal relationship between the arts and society. For more information, visit and follow @AspenInstArts on Twitter. 

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit


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