Americans for the Arts will present the annual National Arts Awards on Monday, October 23, as part of National Arts and Humanities Month. The awards recognize artists and arts leaders who exhibit exemplary national leadership and whose work demonstrates extraordinary achievement.
This year’s National Arts Awards recipients are:
Andra Day – Ted Arison Young Artist Award (presenter TBD)
Clive Davis – Carolyn Clark Powers Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Dionne Warwick
Thelma Golden – Outstanding Contributions to the Arts Award, presented by Raymond McGuire
Gael Neeson and Stefan Edlis – Philanthropy in the Arts Award, presented by Lisa Phillips
William Lehr – Legacy Award, presented by Marian M. Warden
Studio in a School – Arts Education Award, presented by Darren Walker
The awards will be presented at a gala dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City, chaired by Carolyn Clark Powers. Co-chairs for the event are Sarah Arison, David and Susan Goode, Jeff and Justine Koons, Nora C. Orphanides, and Marian M. Warden. The evening will feature the work of visual artist Sarah Sze and a special musical performance by alumni of the National YoungArts Foundation, with musical direction by Jake Goldbas.
“I am thrilled to honor such a tremendous group of artistic visionaries and leaders. They have all contributed enormously to America’s artistic and cultural legacy, and their persistence and extraordinary achievements have no doubt changed the future of the arts in America for the better,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts.
“I’m delighted to be serving as Chair of this special event for the third year, at a time when it feels particularly important to come together and celebrate the transformative power of the arts,” Powers said. “Music and music history run through my veins, so I am very pleased we are honoring legendary music producer Clive Davis – whose impact has been felt through generations and across musical genres – with my namesake Lifetime Achievement Award; as well as Andra Day who impresses us with her artistry and advocacy for social justice. Another change agent, Thelma Golden, is the first non-artist to receive our Outstanding Contributions Award for her work in redefining the role of museums and contemporary culture for a new era. Arts leaders Gael Neeson and Stefan Edlis, as well as William Lehr, have demonstrated the vital role of philanthropists not just at the national level, but also in their home communities. Few organizations have had such influence in Arts Education as Studio in a School Association – which is why I am thrilled we are recognizing them on the occasion of their 40th anniversary.”
Arison commented, “The National Arts Awards is always a wonderful evening, and I am so pleased to underwrite the Young Artist Award in memory of my late grandfather, Ted Arison, and to be a Co-Chair again this year. The cultivation of young artists is important to my family and to me personally, which is why I am particularly excited that the evening’s performers are alumni of the National YoungArts Foundation, which my grandparents founded. Andra Day serves as a model and inspiration for all young artists today.”
About the 2017 National Arts Awards Recipients
Andra Day is an American singer and songwriter known for her boundless talent, as well as her deep conviction and commitment to social and cultural change. Ms. Day’s full-length debut Cheers to the Fall garnered a 2016 Grammy Award nomination in the category of “Best R&B Album,” while its ubiquitous lead single “Rise Up” earned a nod for “Best R&B Performance” and received the Recording Industry Association of America’s Platinum certification, in addition to amassing over 37 million Spotify streams. Ms. Day has performed for a variety of audiences including on: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Ellen, Dancing with the Stars, The View, Hallmark’s National Christmas Tree Lighting, Audience TV, the CMA Country Christmas, and the America’s Got Talent Holiday Spectacular. She recently appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, where she debuted her interpretation of Abel Meerepol’s seminal song Strange Fruit, made famous by Billie Holiday, and spoke, alongside the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, about the history of lynching in America.
Ms. Day has paid tribute to Ray Charles at The Smithsonian, and has shared the stage with everyone from Chinese piano virtuoso Lang Lang, Bonnie Raitt, and Stevie Wonder to Ellie Goulding, Alicia Keys, and John Legend. She has performed at and participated in the 2016 Democratic National Convention and the “International Day of the Girl” held at The White House. Ms. Day is working on her second full-length album due out this year. She recently released “Stand Up for Something,” a duet with artist Common, featured in the film "Marshall,” about Thurgood Marshall, the country's first African-American Supreme Court justice.
Clive Davis has had a profound effect on the world of music. He has earned four Grammys in his role as Album Producer, has received the Grammy Trustees Lifetime Achievement Award, and, in 2010, The Recording Academy named The Grammy Museum theatre in his honor. In 2000, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Mr. Davis has played a key role in the careers of countless artists across those genres including: Janis Joplin, Chicago, Santana, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith, Neil Diamond, Simon & Garfunkel, Sly & The Family Stone, Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Barry Manilow, Whitney Houston, Patti Smith, Sarah McLachlan, Aretha Franklin, The Grateful Dead, Lou Reed, Eurythmics, Dionne Warwick, Carly Simon, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Brad Paisley, Usher, OutKast, Pink, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans, Alicia Keys, Maroon 5, Luther Vandross, Rod Stewart, and Jennifer Hudson.
Mr. Davis is a graduate of New York University and Harvard Law School. He first worked at Columbia Records, where he was named President in 1967. In 1974, Mr. Davis founded Arista Records, and expanded the company to include Arista Nashville in 1988. He continued his exploration of different musical genres with the formation of LaFace Records in 1989, and Bad Boy Records in 1994. In 2000, Mr. Davis formed J Records, and in 2008 he was appointed Chief Creative Officer for Sony Music Entertainment, a position which expanded the number of artists for whom he was creatively responsible.
Thelma Golden is Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, the world’s leading institution devoted to visual art by artists of African descent. Ms. Golden began her career as a Studio Museum intern in 1987. In 1988, she joined the Whitney Museum of American Art, where she launched her influential curatorial practice. In 2000, Ms. Golden returned to the Studio Museum as Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Programs. Her curatorial vision has cemented the Museum as “one of New York City’s most consistently stimulating and innovative art institutions,” according to Holland Cotter of the New York Times. Her tenure as Director has been characterized by a deep commitment to planning for the Museum’s future.
Ms. Golden holds a B.A. in Art History and African American Studies from Smith College and has received numerous honorary doctorates. In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Ms. Golden to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, on which she served until 2016. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Barack Obama Foundation and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She is a 2008 Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute, and in 2016 received the Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. In 2015, she was appointed as a Ford Foundation Art of Change Visiting Fellow.
GAEL NEESON and STEFAN EDLIS
Gael Neeson and Stefan Edlis are among the most noted collectors of contemporary art in the world. A Holocaust survivor, Mr. Edlis grew up in Vienna, Austria, and came to New York in 1941. He served in the Navy in the Second World War. After being discharged in San Francisco, he became a tool maker before moving to Chicago and founding Apollo Plastics in 1965. Ms. Neeson was born and educated in Melbourne, Australia. She left Australia after college to travel the world before coming to Chicago and Aspen, where she and Mr. Edlis met and were married.
In 2007, Mr. Edlis and Ms. Neeson created the Edlis Neeson Foundation to support the arts, communication, and outreach. They have provided key funding to institutions and initiatives such as the Aspen Art Museum; the Aspen Music Festival and School; the Aspen Institute; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Lyric Opera of Chicago; Chicago Opera Theater; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and the New Museum, where Ms. Neeson sits on the board. Mr. Edlis is a trustee of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and serves on the Board of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. In 2015, Ms. Neeson and Mr. Edlis donated 44 works from their collection, valued at $500 million, to the Art Institute of Chicago. This remains the largest gift in the museum’s history.
WILLIAM LEHR, JR.
William Lehr, Jr. is a respected, longtime arts and community leader in central Pennsylvania, while also serving as an esteemed national voice in arts policy. He has served on the boards of more than 30 non-profit and public-private organizations, acting as Chairman of the Board for more than a dozen of them at the national, state, and regional levels. Mr. Lehr holds, and has held, leadership positions within multiple national and regional organizations, including: Lebanon Valley College, where he previously served as Chairman of the Board; Union Theological Seminary; Harrisburg Symphony Association, where he is immediate past Chairman; WITF Public Media, where he is also immediate past Chairman; and the Susquehanna Art Museum, where he is serving his second term as President of the Board. He is a director, Vice Chairman, and former Chairman of Americans for the Arts, where he currently chairs the Investment Committee, its PAC, and its Foundation. He is Chairman of the Arts Partnership, a collaboration between The Foundation for Enhancing Communities and the Cultural Enrichment Fund. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of The University of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Religious Values in Business, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission. He was recently chair of the Capital Campaign Committee for the Hamilton Health Center in inner city Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
STUDIO IN A SCHOOL ASSOCIATION
The mission of Studio in a School Association is to foster the creative and intellectual development of children and youth through quality visual arts programs directed by arts professionals, and to collaborate with and develop the ability of those who provide or support arts programming and creative development both in and outside of schools. The association realizes its mission through two organizations: the New York City Schools Program and the Studio Institute. Studio’s New York City Schools Program delivers in-class instruction across multiple grades and through varied media, primarily for students who otherwise would not have access to a quality visual arts curriculum. It also expands the expertise of classroom teachers while solidifying the important role of arts education within their schools. This year, Studio is engaging over 33,000 students and more than 2,000 teachers at 194 educational sites in New York City, 92 percent of which serve students living in communities with high levels of poverty. The Studio Institute undertakes research to identify and document best practices in visual arts education; disseminates Studio’s program models; and participates in field-wide conversations about instructional strategies. The Institute is currently engaged in citywide professional development for Pre-Kindergarten teachers in support of New York City’s Pre-K for All program, and is expanding Studio’s Arts Intern program for teens and young adults into several other U.S. cities. It is also leading a research project integrating Arts Education into Math, English Language Arts and Technology curricula in four South Bronx elementary schools.
The National Arts Awards has garnered the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations across the country. Americans for the Arts extends special gratitude to Arison Arts Foundation and Carolyn Clark Powers.
Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education in America. With offices in Washington, D.C. and New York City, it has a record of more than 55 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at www.AmericansForTheArts.org