2020 Brendan Gill Prize Ceremony

Honoring Julia Wolfe for "Fire in my mouth"

Note: this event has reached capacity for registration. Please contact events@mas.org with any questions or if you RSVP’d and no longer can attend. We look forward to celebrating on September 14!

MAS is pleased to welcome our audience back for the first time to gather outdoors for an in-person ceremony and presentation of the 2020 Brendan Gill Prize, postponed from March 2020. Held at the newly-restored Concert Grove Pavilion in Prospect Park, this ceremony will pay tribute to Julia Wolfe for her magnificent oratorio, Fire in my mouth, a hauntingly beautiful retelling of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. 

Guests will hear from the artist herself in conversation with Brendan Gill Prize Jurists, and delight in a special performance from the Young People’s Chorus of New York City. The performance will feature an introduction from YPC Founder and Artistic Director, Francisco J. Núñez. We will also pay tribute to four book submissions that were finalists for the prize and received special recognition. 

Light bites and refreshments will be served. The program will take place rain or shine with a reception to follow under the Pavilion. 

Free with RSVP; $25 Suggested Donation.

Attendance is limited to allow for physical distancing due to COVID-19. All attendees are asked to please wear masks at this event when not eating or drinking, regardless of vaccination status.

View the ceremony’s digital program book (pdf format).

Tuesday, September 14
5:30 PM — 7:30 PM

Concert Grove Pavilion in Prospect Park
153 East Drive, Brooklyn, NY 11225

Nearest public transit: B/Q/S at Prospect Park or B16 bus at Ocean Avenue and Lincoln Road


  • portrait of composer Julia Wolfe
    Julia Wolfe. Photo: Peter Serling.
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  • Jaap van Zweden conducts the New York Philharmonic in the world premiere of Julia Wolfe's Fire in My Mouth at David Geffen Hall, January 24, 2019. Photo: Chris Lee.
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  • 2020 Brendan Gill Prize winner: Julia Wolfe for "Fire in my mouth." Photo by Chris Lee.
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  • Photo: Chris Lee.
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  • Photo: Chris Lee.
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  • Photo: Chris Lee.
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Fire in my mouth

Music and Text by Julia Wolfe

This spectacular conception, managed in one large multimedia piece and presented in David Geffen Hall from January 24–26, 2019, conveys the story of the promise of immigration; the treatment of unfair labor practices; and the history of women-led protests that would shape the civic and political life of New York City.

Fire in my mouth, commissioned and performed by the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Music Director Jaap van Zweeden, with the chamber choir The Crossing and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, mines an emotional tragedy of contemporary relevance.

Julia Wolfe’s oratorio illuminates what a piece of orchestral music can be and do. The 146 female singers, standing in for the 146 garment workers who perished in the fire, also speaks to the power of our city, its history, and all of the people who have made it what it is today. For all of this, the 2020 Brendan Gill Prize Jury sat in deep admiration.

Learn more about composer Julia Wolfe  >

View trailer for Fire in my mouth  >

Special Recognition Honorees

During deliberations for the 2020 Gill Prize, the jury was struck by the quality of four books that draw on the historical record of our City in quite special and particular ways. We are proud to honor these four writers—all finalists for the Gill Prize—with special designation:

  • Contested City: Art & Public History as Mediation at New York’s Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, by Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani
  • Brooklyn: The Once and Future City, by Thomas J. Campanella
  • CODEX New York; Typologies of the City, by photographer Stanley Greenberg
  • Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal, by Eric K. Washington


About the Brendan Gill Prize

The Brendan Gill Prize was established in 1987 in honor of Brendan Gill by friend and fellow MAS board member Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis along with board members Helen Tucker and Margot Wellington. The Prize is given each year to the creator of a specific work—a book, essay, musical composition, play, painting, sculpture, architectural design, film, or choreographic piece—that best captures the spirit and energy of New York City.

Learn more about the Brendan Gill Prize  >

2020 Brendan Gill Prize Jury

John Haworth (Brendan Gill Prize Jury Chair), Senior Executive Emeritus, National Museum of the American Indian/NY, Smithsonian Institution
Randall Bourscheidt, Director, Archive of New York City Cultural Policy
Patricia Cruz, Artistic Director and CEO, Harlem Stage
Gail Gregg, Artist and Journalist
Cassim Shepard, Urbanist, Filmmaker, and Author
Laurie Beckelman, Not-for-profit Consultant
Helen Tucker, MAS Director Emerita

  • Concert Grove Pavilion in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, location of the Brendan Gill Prize Ceremony on September 14. Photo: Paul Martinka
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  • The Young People's Chorus of New York City. Photo: Stephanie Berger.
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About the Young People’s Chorus of New York City

It is the mission of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City to provide children of all cultural and economic backgrounds with a unique program of music education and choral performance that seeks to fulfill each child’s potential, while creating a model of artistic excellence and diversity that enriches the community.

Learn more and support their work  >

About the Newly Restored Concert Grove Pavilion in Prospect Park

The Concert Grove Pavilion, completed in 1874, was designed by Calvert Vaux. Situated in the Upper Concert Grove, the Pavilion is an open-air shelter that consists of eight cast-iron columns supporting a decorative metal and wood roof with a multi-colored, elaborate stained-glass skylight. Typical of the day, its design borrows motifs from Hindu, Chinese, Moorish, and Egyptian architecture. Its rehabilitation restored a key element in Olmsted and Vaux’s formally designed axial layout of the Concert Grove, as the Pavilion sits on axis with Music Island, which the Prospect Park Alliance reconstructed in 2012. The careful restoration of this public amenity maintains the Pavilion’s historic character while allowing for contemporary uses, offering park visitors a place to rest, picnic, gather and have small performances.

Learn more and support the work of Prospect Park Alliance  >

We’re here to help! Contact us at events@mas.org.