The Minimalist icon and the Broadway star are among the latest recipients of the National Medal of Arts.
Composer Philip Glass and Broadway star Audra McDonald will join the likes of film producer Mel Brooks and actor Morgan Freeman when President Barack Obama gives out the annual National Medal of Arts at an East Room ceremony at the White House on September 22.
Glass is being honored for expanding our musical possibilities with “his groundbreaking contributions to music and composition,” and as “one of the most prolific, inventive, and influential artists of our time”. McDonald is commended for “lighting up Broadway as one of its brightest stars… her rich, soulful voice continues to take her audiences to new heights.” Mel Brooks is simply cited “for a lifetime of making the world laugh”.
Other honorees include Motown founder Berry Gordon, playwright and director Moises Kaufman, dancer and choreographer Ralph Lemon, playwright and actor Luis Valdez, and painter Jack Whitten. Meanwhile, the trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis is among the recipients of the National Humanities Medal, which includes authors Rudolfo Anaya, James McBride and Ron Chernow and poet Louise Glück.
The National Council on the Arts, the body overseeing the National Endowment for the Arts, reviews nominations and sends recommendations to the president, but ultimately it is the Commander-in-Chief who determines who will be honoured, and the list reflects some of his known musical enthusiasms as exhibited in White House concerts over his eight years in office. “These National Medal of Arts recipients have helped to define our nation’s cultural legacy through the artistic excellence of their creative traditions, and I join the President in congratulating and thanking them for their contributions,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu.
The National Medal of Arts is awarded to individuals or groups who are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in the United States. Previous recipients under President Obama have included composers Meredith Monk, John Williams, John Kander and the Sherman Brothers, singers Jessye Norman, Renée Fleming and Bob Dylan, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, musicians Van Cliburn, Herb Alpert and Quincey Jones, actors Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood and Rita Moreno, playwright Tony Kushner, author Harper Lee and choreographer Bill T. Jones.
The event will be live streamed at www.whitehouse.gov/live.