Sufjan Stevens has taken home the first New Pantheon Award for his 2005 album, "Illinois." Stevens beat out nine other finalists for the $5,000 prize, which aims to continue the mission of the now-def

Sufjan Stevens has taken home the first New Pantheon Award for his 2005 album, "Illinois." Stevens beat out nine other finalists for the $5,000 prize, which aims to continue the mission of the now-defunct Shortlist Prize in recognizing noteworthy albums that have sold less than 500,000 copies in the United States.

In lieu of an actual ceremony, the winner was revealed on the New Pantheon Web site this morning (March 31). The honor was originally scheduled to be presented Feb. 6 in Los Angeles but was then bumped to a March date that never materialized due to unexplained "logistical reasons."

Stevens was chosen by a panel of nominators that included Dave Matthews, Beck, Ric Ocasek, Elton John, Garbage's Shirley Manson and Keith Urban.

"It's our first year for the New Pantheon [and] the intention has only ever been to set up a completely independent, totally organic effort for creative people by creative people that could help further expose the creative leading lights of the year," says New Pantheon founder Tom Sarig.

"Illinois," the second of Stevens' album-length concept pieces about a U.S. state, was released on the artist's own Asthmatic Kitty label. It debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart and No. 4 on the Top Independent Albums tally, both career bests.

"I'm still doing everything pretty independently and releasing things on my own label," Stevens told Billboard.com last summer. "Most of the decisions that I make aren't based on sales success or money -- they're based on sustaining my art and being true to the original goal and vision. So I think the kind of success that's coming out of ['Illinois'] is a real surprise and a real blessing, but I never expected it."

After a busy 2005, Stevens is taking it easy this spring. The lone show on his schedule at deadline is a late May appearance at the Sasquatch! Festival in George, Wash.