Tag: National Medal of Arts

Maya Angelou to Receive Honorary Book Award

Dr. Maya Angelou poses at the the Special Recognition Event for Dr. Maya Angelou � The Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait at Dr. Angelou's home June 21, 2010 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Ken Charnock/Getty Images)
Dr. Maya Angelou poses at the the Special Recognition Event for Dr. Maya Angelou The Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait at Dr. Angelou’s home June 21, 2010 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Ken Charnock/Getty Images)

The book world is finally honoring Maya Angelou.

The poet and author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will be this year’s recipient of the Literarian Award, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community, the National Book Foundation announced today. It is the first major literary prize for the 85-year-old Angelou, who has been celebrated everywhere from the Grammy Awards to the White House. She has received three Grammys for best spoken word album, a National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.

Speaking by telephone with The Associated Press, Angelou said she couldn’t wait to be in the same room as “some very big names in the literary world” and that the Literarian prize made her feel that she was “picking in high cotton.”

“Dr. Angelou’s body of work transcends the words on the page,” the book foundation’s executive director, Harold Augenbraum, said in a statement. “She has been on the front lines of history and the fight for social justice and decade after decade remains a symbol of the redemptive power of literature in the contemporary world.”

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Professor, Playwright and Actress Anna Deavere Smith Awarded National Humanities Medal by President Obama

President Barack Obama presents a 2012 National Humanities Medal to American actress, playwright, and professor, Anna Deavere Smith during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 10, 2013 in Washington, DC. Smith is recognized for her portrayal of authentic American voices. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama presents a 2012 National Humanities Medal to American actress, playwright, and professor, Anna Deavere Smith during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 10, 2013 in Washington, DC. Smith is recognized for her portrayal of authentic American voices. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Describing them as teachers, President Barack Obama said Wednesday that two dozen recipients of national medals for contributions to the arts and humanities have created works that will last for American life.

At a White House ceremony, Obama awarded medals to 23 singers, dancers, poets, producers, playwrights, scholars and others, and one performing arts organization.  As applause and cheers rippled across the stately East Room, Obama joked that the audience was doing so “Because I’ve bought their books, I’ve seen their movies, I buy their records. So we’re major contributors here.”

Turning more serious, he praised the medal recipients for using their talents “To open up minds and nourish souls, and help us understand what it means to be human, and what it means to be an American.”  “We celebrate people like our honorees here today not just because of their talent, but because they create something new. They create a new space and that becomes a lasting contribution to American life,” Obama said.

Among those receiving a National Medal of Arts are Herb Alpert, of Malibu, Calif., the musician behind the Tijuana Brass phenomenon and co-founder of A&M records; filmmaker George Lucas, of San Anselmo, Calif., and the Washington Performing Arts Society, of Washington, D.C.

Recipients of the National Humanities Medal include author Joan Didion, sportswriter Frank Deford and Robert B. Silvers, editor and co-founder of The New York Review of Books. All three are from New York.

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University of Rochester Honors Opera Singer Jessye Norman

Jessye NormanThe University of Rochester has announced that it will present an honorary doctorate of music to Jessye Norman, one of the world’s leading classical sopranos. Norman will receive the honorary degree at a benefit concert in Rochester for Action for a Better Community on April 14. Action for a Better Community is a community action agency that promotes and provides opportunities for low-income individuals and families to become self-sufficient.

Jessye Norman has had a singing career spanning more than 40 years. She is a five-time Grammy Award winner, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in 2010 she was presented by President Obama with the National Medal of Arts. She holds honorary degrees from more than 40 colleges and universities around the world.

article via jbhe.com

Born On This Day in 1912: Acclaimed Photographer & Director Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks
(Photo: BILL FOLEY /Landov) 
Gordon Parks was a master of many arts: photography, film making, music and fiction. But the world almost missed the opportunity to experience and enjoy his major contributions.   Born on Nov. 30, 1912, to a family in Fort Scott, Kansas, that already included 14 other children, Parks was declared stillborn when his doctor couldn’t detect a heartbeat. Thanks to another doctor who thought to immerse him in cold water, which got his heart beating, he survived.

Parks, who taught himself photography with a used camera he bought for $7.50, led a life filled with firsts and major milestones, including shooting for Vogue and becoming the first Black photographer at Life magazine, where for two decades he documented the civil rights movement, race relations and urban life in America. 
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