Watch: Viola Davis gives inspiring speech on winning Harvard's 'Artist of the Year'

FP Staff

Mar,07 2017 12:56 16 IST

Fresh from her best supporting actress Oscar for her role in Fences, Viola Davis is at Harvard University to receive the 2017 Artist of the Year Award from the Harvard Foundation.

Davis attended the Cultural Rhythms Festival on Saturday, 4 February 2017. She briefly came on stage before taking a seat to watch a series of cultural musical performances by students.

Viola Davis accepts her award. Image courtesy: Twitter

Viola Davis accepts her award. Image courtesy: Twitter

After delivering an equally inspiring speech at the Oscars and a very politically charged Golden Globe acceptance speech about Trump and the racially charged atmosphere in Bollywood, Davis talked about art in a very inspiring way:

"Art – it's a very sacred place – the stage and the screen," Davis said. She said she views acting as a healing art form that helps people 'feel less alone,' including herself. "It's the reason why, for so many years, I did it."

For Davis, giving people the chance 'to be seen' comes from a personal place. The actress, who attended Rhode Island College and Juilliard, said she felt frustrated because she wasn't heard as an artist. "I spent so many years at Juilliard just wanting to beat someone up," Davis said. "I felt like my voice as an artist was being stifled ... Your job as an audience is to bear witness ... to come open and willing to transform."

In addition to the Oscar, Davis received the Critics' Choice, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and British Academy of Films and Television Arts awards for her portrayal of Rose Maxson in the film adaptation of Fences, an August Wilson play.


Davis also won a Tony Award for the 2010 Broadway revival of the play.

Previous winners of the Harvard award include Quincy Jones, Andy Garcia, Matt Damon, Salma Hayek and Shakira.


Here is Davis's acceptance speech:

(with inputs from agencies)