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2023 Crystal Award: Meet this year's winners

2023 Crystal Award: Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba, Renée Fleming and Maya Lin.

2023 Crystal Award: Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba, Renée Fleming and Maya Lin. Image: Alex J Piper; Ken Howard / Met Opera; Andy Romer, courtesy MSPC

Hilde Schwab
Chairperson and Co-Founder, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, World Economic Forum Geneva
Joseph Fowler
Head, Arts and Culture, World Economic Forum
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Society and Equity

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • The 29th Annual Crystal Award goes to four well-deserved winners.
  • The 2023 Crystal Award went to the architect, activist and artist Maya Lin, soprano Renée Fleming and actors and humanitarians, Idris and Sabrina Elba.
  • The winners will receive their awards at the crystal Award ceremony on16 January at the opening of Davos 2023.
  • Watch the ceremony live here.

Now in its 29th year, the Crystal Award honours exceptional artists and cultural leaders whose important contributions to society have made a tangible impact on improving the state of the world and who best represent the attitude of openness and cooperation that is the 'spirit of Davos.'

The Crystal Award is presented at Davos each year by the Chair of the World Arts Forum. The cultural leaders receiving the 2023 Crystal Award are bridge-builders. They connect us to each other, they help us reflect on the human condition and they provide visions of the world that can cut through the limitations of short-term or linear thinking. On the occasion of the 29th Annual Crystal Award, we are delighted to celebrate the leadership of architect Maya Lin, soprano Renée Fleming and actor, filmmaker and humanitarian, Idris Elba, and actor, model and humanitarian Sabrina Elba.

The 29th Annual Crystal Awardees

Maya Lin

Davos 2023 Crystal Award Maya Lin has been committed to focusing attention on key issues of our time: women’s rights, civil rights, Native American history and the climate crisis.
2023 Crystal Award Maya Lin has been committed to focusing attention on key issues of our time: women’s rights, civil rights, Native American history and the climate crisis. Image: Alyssa C. Thiel, courtesy PUAM

Maya Lin has fashioned a remarkable interdisciplinary career through her highly acclaimed art and architectural works, showcasing sustainable design and emphasising a stronger connection to the land and nature.

From her first public work, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, Lin has been committed to focusing attention on key issues of our time: women’s rights, civil rights, Native American history and the climate crisis. In 2016, upon awarding Lin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Barack Obama said Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial “changed the way we think about sacrifice and patriotism and ourselves.”

What is Missing? Lin’s memorial, which is experimental and multi-disciplinary in nature, utilises science-based artworks to raise awareness of the present mass extinctions of species, while emphasising that by protecting and restoring habitats and reforming our land-use practices we could significantly reduce our emissions and restore and protect biodiversity.

Art, at times, can present new ways of seeing our world that make us stop and wonder and care. It can help us rethink the problems we face and, in so doing, can help us imagine possible and plausible paths forward.

Maya Lin

Renée Fleming

Davos 2023 Crystal Awardee Renée Fleming is a leading advocate for research at the intersection of arts, health and neuroscience.
Crystal Awardee Renée Fleming is a leading advocate for research at the intersection of arts, health and neuroscience. Image: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Renée Fleming is one of the most acclaimed singers of our time, performing on the stages of the world’s greatest opera houses and concert halls. Honoured with four Grammy® awards and the US National Medal of Arts, she has sung at momentous occasions from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to the Diamond Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth II to the Super Bowl.

A leading advocate for research at the intersection of arts, health and neuroscience, Fleming launched the first ongoing collaboration between The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) with the participation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Sound Health initiative explores and brings attention to research and practice at the intersection of music, health and neuroscience. This collaboration has led to workshops at the NIH and events and performances at the Kennedy Center. It also led the NIH to recently award $20 million dollars in funding for music and neuroscience research over five years. The Renée Fleming Foundation is now partnering with the Foundation for the NIH to develop a tool kit for standardizing music and health clinical research for brain disorders of ageing.

Fleming has presented her programme, Music and the Mind, around the world. She is a founding advisor for major initiatives in this field, including the Sound Health Network at UCSF and the Neuro Arts Blueprint at Johns Hopkins University.

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Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba

Davos 2023 Crystal Award Idris and Sabrina Elba visit Maboikandoh, Sierra Leone. On an IFAD programme working to reduce rural poverty and food insecurity on a sustainable basis through agriculture.
2023 Crystal Award winners Idris and Sabrina Elba visit Maboikandoh, Sierra Leone on an IFAD programme Image: © IFAD/Rodney Quarcoo

Actor, filmmaker and humanitarian, Idris Elba, and his wife, model, actress and humanitarian, Sabrina Dhowre Elba, were appointed UN Goodwill Ambassadors for IFAD in April 2020. As IFAD Goodwill Ambassadors, they focus on issues related to food security, climate change and environmental conservation. The couple recently visited an IFAD-supported project in Sierra Leone, where they met farmers who received support for rice production and assistance with rural finance after the Ebola crisis.

Queen Elizabeth II awarded Idris Elba with the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2016 and The Prince’s Trust, founded by King Charles in 1976, which Elba credits with helping to start his career, appointed him as its anti-crime ambassador in 2009.

His charitable work is as commendable as his acting accolades. He supports causes related to poverty, HIV/AIDS, at-risk and disadvantaged youth, health and education. He worked with the United Nations and DFID during the Ebola health crisis and filmed campaigns in support of UNICEF, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals campaign. He has also recently created a number of youth-focused campaigns to promote education and learning and discourage violence

Sabrina Dhowre Elba also works with a variety of civil society organizations, including Conservation International on environmental issues. She is passionate about gender equality and promoting the empowerment of women and girls worldwide.

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