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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2010 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal Awarded

President Obama awarded twenty honorees in the East Room of the White House today, in a ceremony that saw two honorees missing in action. 

Ella Boff accepts the honor for Jacobs Pillow Dance Fest. Photo/CD Brown.
 While actress Meryl Streep, and author of To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee did not attend, those honorees in attendance had no problem proudly strutting on stage to receive their coveted honor.

Among the 2010 National Medal of Arts honorees: Quincy Jones (musician, composer, record producer, and arranger, lauded as music's master inventor); Robert Brustein (critic, producer, playwright, educator, and founder of the Yale Repertory Theatre);  Van Cliburn, pianist and winner of  the1958 victory at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow; Mark di Suvero (sculptor and abstract expressionist); influential jazz musician, Sonny Rollins (post-bebop jazz musician influencing generations of musicians for over 50 years); Poet Laureate Donald Hall, for his extensive contributions to American poetry; Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (America’s longest running international dance festival), and musician James Taylor.

Quincy Jones accepts his 2010 National Medal of Arts award. Photo/CD Brown.
 "Everything like that feels good", Quincy Jones told us.  "It feels like you didn't waste your time on this planet.  It is a great feeling."   Jones, who has known many of today's honorees, like Van Cliburn who he received the Kennedy Center Awards honor with and James Taylor, for many years, called today's event "fantastic".  "It's additional proof of really being alive."

Jones, known for his brilliant work with Michael Jackson's Thriller album, and Alice Walker's The Color Purple told us that he is working on putting eighty Middle Eastern singers together to produce a 2010 version of the 1990's hit, Tomorrow, arranged by Jones featuring Tevin Campbell.

"It's a healing song for all that's happened in the Middle East now", said the mega producer who admits to having frequented the region many times.  

The production is expected to be finished in May, 2010 and will include the Middle East's Moroccan King, Mohammed VI.  The song will be performed first in the Moroccan city of Rabat before debuting in the U.S.

Also awarded was the National Humanities Medal.  Honorees included Library of America founder, Daniel Aaron; Bernard Bailyn (Pulitzer Prize-winner for The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution and Voyagers to the West); Jacques Barzun (scholar, educator, and author. Barzun's award was accepted by his wife, Marguerite Barzun); Arnold Rampersad (biographer, literary critic and profiler of W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Jackie Robinson, and Ralph Ellison.  Rampersad has also edited critical editions of the works of Richard Wright and Langston Hughes); Wendell E. Berry (poet, novelist, farmer, conservationist and author of more than 40 books); Roberto González Echevarría (Spanish and Latin American literacy theorist); Stanley Nider Katz (president of the American Council of Learned Societies); Joyce Carol Oates (also awardee of the National Book Award and the PEN/ Malamud Award for excellence in the art of the short story); Philip Roth (author Portnoy’s Complaint and American Pastoral, as well as 24 other literary works); and Pulitzer Prize winner Gordon Wood (author of 18 books, including The Radicalism of the American Revolution).

Said President Obama on the occasion, "And that’s why I’m so proud to have this opportunity to celebrate the contributions that all of you have made to our country.  It’s why we have to remember that our strength as a people runs deeper than our military might; it runs deeper than our GDP. It’s also about our values and our ideals that each generation is called to uphold, and that each artist helps us better understand."

The event was also attended by First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, and Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), responsible for the selection of the honorees.

The National Medal of Arts is an award and title created by the United States Congress in 1984, for the purpose of honoring artists and patrons of the arts. It is the highest honor conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the people. The medal was designed for the NEA by sculptor Robert Graham.

Our photo gallery |  Video | Sighted at the event: of the Black Eyed Peas | Our interview with Quincy Jones

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