Americans for the Arts will present the annual National Arts Awards on Monday, October 22, as part of National Arts & 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 honorees are:
Mavis Staples – Carolyn Clark Powers Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Stephen Colbert
Ai Weiwei – Marina Kellen French Outstanding Contributions to the Arts Award, presented by Alexandra Monroe
Justin Peck – Ted Arison Young Artist Award, presented by Tiler Peck
Ann Ziff – Philanthropy in the Arts Award, presented by Renée Fleming
Alliance for Young Artists & Writers – Arts Education Award, presented by Zac Posen
John Baldessari – Featured Artist
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, Betsy and Edward Cohen, David and Susan Goode, Agnes Gund, Marina Kellen French, Jeff and Justine Koons, Nora C. Orphanides, and Richard Robinson/Scholastic, Inc. The evening will feature the work of visual artist John Baldessari and a special musical performance by alumni of the National YoungArts Foundation, which awards young teenage artists of excellence, with musical direction by Jake Goldbas.
“The recipients of the National Arts Awards represent a deep commitment to the arts, and the power of art to transform lives and communities. We are thrilled to be honoring such a tremendous group of artistic visionaries and leaders. Their persistence and extraordinary achievements have already served as an inspiration, and their work will continue to strengthen the arts and the power of the arts to inspire positive change in communities all across America,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts.
“I’m honored to be in my fourth year serving as Chair of this wonderful event. Seeing people come together to celebrate the profound impact of the arts and support those carrying out important work is incredibly uplifting. Music plays a huge role in my life and family history so I am thrilled that, this year, music icon and civil rights activist Mavis Staples—whose family musical roots, like mine, are connected to Dockery Farms—will receive my namesake Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Carolyn Clark Powers, Chair, underwriter of Carolyn Clark Powers Lifetime Achievement Award, and Americans for the Arts Board member.
“The National Arts Awards is always a special evening, and I am pleased to once again underwrite the Young Artist Award in memory of my late grandfather, Ted Arison, and to serve as a Co-Chair. This year’s Young Artist honoree, Justin Peck, demonstrates how powerful young artists are pushing the boundaries of their art forms and encouraging important discussions through their work. Justin exemplifies the qualities that my grandparents aimed to cultivate when they founded the National YoungArts Foundation,” said Sarah Arison, Co-Chair, underwriter of the Ted Arison Young Artist Award, and Americans for the Arts Board member.
“Ai Weiwei’s work tackles difficult political and social issues by bending the lines of ‘traditional’ art. Whether in public spaces, museums, or private collections, his work highlights the power of artists as activists. I’m a great admirer of his work and am honored Americans for the Arts will be awarding him the inaugural Outstanding Contribution to the Arts Awards given in my name,” said Marina Kellen French, Co-Chair. In appreciation of Ms. Kellen French’s contributions to the arts writ large, Americans for the Arts is presenting the award for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts in her name.
About the 2018 National Arts Awards Honorees
Iconic singer Mavis Staples is an alchemist of American music, having continuously crossed genre lines like no musician since Ray Charles. Over the course of her 70-year career as an intrepid musical pioneer, she has blurred the lines between gospel, soul, folk, pop, R&B, blues, rock, Americana, and hip hop. Now on the cusp of her eighth decade of sharing her powerful voice, she is only gaining momentum—she released her latest album If All I Was Was Black in 2018, she was the subject of the HBO documentary Mavis!, and was named a 2016 Kennedy Center Honoree. She continues to tour the world, remaining vital and engaged, continually evolving her sound to reflect the times she traverses and new influences she finds. Since her first paying gig at Chicago's Holy Trinity Baptist Church in 1948, Ms. Staples has learned from, worked with, and mentored countless legends, and has brought her own timeless talent to every performance. Through her illustrious career and varied experiences, the one constant has been Ms. Staples’ singular voice: from the Delta-inflected gospel sound she helped create in the 1950s with her father Pops and her brother and sisters as The Staple Singers; to the freedom songs of the Civil Rights era; to international pop radio stardom during the Stax era with hits “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself;” to her riveting performance in Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz; to serving as muse to both Bob Dylan and Prince at the peak of their careers; to 21st-century collaborations with Gorillaz, Van Morrison, Billy Preston, Zac Brown, Ry Cooder, Chuck D., Willie Nelson, and Arcade Fire; to her Grammy Award®-winning partnership with fellow Chicagoan Jeff Tweedy of WILCO, and so much more. She has embraced her evolution, absorbing new sounds and ideas, rising to meet the challenges of longevity, and bringing her message of hope and positivity to new listeners—song after song, show after show.
Ai Weiwei is renowned for making strong aesthetic statements that resonate around the world due to their timeliness and relevance to geopolitical issues. From architecture to installations, social media to documentaries, Mr. Ai uses a wide range of mediums to express himself, allowing his audiences to examine society and its values in new and innovative ways. Born in Beijing in 1957, Mr. Ai currently resides and works in both Beijing and Berlin. He is the current Einstein Visiting Professor at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) and is the recipient of the 2015 Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International and the 2012 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation. Recent exhibitions include: Maybe, Maybe Not at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem; Law of the Journey at the National Gallery in Prague; Ai Weiwei. Libero at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence; #SafePassage at Foam in Amsterdam; translocation - transformation at 21er Haus in Vienna; Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy of Arts in London; and @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz in San Francisco. His project on Alcatraz was recognized by Americans for the Arts as one of the best public art projects of 2015.
Justin Peck is the Resident Choreographer and a soloist with the New York City Ballet. He began choreographing in 2009 at the New York Choreographic Institute and, in 2014, after the creation of his acclaimed ballet Everywhere We Go, he was appointed as Resident Choreographer of New York City Ballet. He is the second person in the institution’s long history to hold this title. Mr. Peck joined New York City Ballet as a dancer in 2006. As a performer, he has danced a vast repertoire of works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins, Alexei Ratmansky, Benjamin Millepied, Christopher Wheeldon, and many others. In 2013, he was promoted to the rank of Soloist. Mr. Peck has created over 30 ballets—16 of those for New York City Ballet—and his works have been performed by Paris Opera Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, LA Dance Project, Dutch National Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Houston Ballet, and Pennsylvania Ballet, to name a few. A choreographer who works across disciplines, Mr. Peck’s collaborators include composers Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner (The National), Dan Deacon; visual artists Shepard Fairey, Marcel Dzama, John Baldessari, Steve Powers, and Jules de Balincourt; and fashion designers Mary Katrantzou, Humberto Leon (Kenzo, Opening Ceremony), Tumori Chisato, and Dries Van Noten. In 2014, Mr. Peck was the subject of the documentary Ballet 422, which followed him for two months as he created NYCB’s 422nd original dance, Paz de la Jolla. In 2015, his ballet Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes won the Bessie Award for Outstanding Production. Mr. Peck choreographed and consulted on the 20th Century Fox feature film Red Sparrow, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton, and directed by Francis Lawrence. Mr. Peck choreographed the 2018 Broadway revival of Carousel, which was directed by Jack O'Brien and starred Jesse Meuller, Joshua Henry, and Renée Fleming. That same year, he received the Tony Award for Best Choreography, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Choreography, and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Choreography for his work on the production.
Tamsen Ann Ziff has had a lifelong passion for the arts. The daughter of American opera singer Harriet Henders, Ms. Ziff has carried her love of opera throughout her life and into her current position as Chairman of the Metropolitan Opera. In addition, she is a Vice Chairman of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and of the Artist Tribe Foundation. Ms. Ziff’s philanthropic reach spans artistic disciplines and extends beyond the arts as well. She currently serves on the boards of the American Museum of Natural History, Fairchild Tropical Garden, Lang Lang International Music Foundation, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles Opera Company, New York Restoration Project, Sing for Hope, and World Science Festival. She is a member of the Visiting Committee of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, and Friends of Asian Art of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ms. Ziff was co-founder and founding chairman of Smile Train and is the founder and producer of the Caribbean Community Theater in St. Croix. With a Master’s of Social Work from NYU and a Master’s in Music Therapy from Temple University, Ms. Ziff is a Visiting Professor at Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple and has been a guest lecturer at Worcester College and the Said Business School at Oxford University. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from the Juilliard School and an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities from Wittenberg University. An artist in her own right, Ms. Ziff designs and makes jewelry under the eponymous company Tamsen Z.
Alliance for Young Artists & Writers
Since their launch in 1923 by Scholastic Inc. founder Maurice R. Robinson, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, presented by the nonprofit organization Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, have empowered teenagers and helped them navigate the most tempestuous time in their development by providing encouragement, as well as a platform of expression for their creative visions and voices to be seen and heard. The objective of elevating teen voice has been at the center of the Awards for nearly 100 years, and to this day it remains the largest scholarship and recognition program for creative teenagers. In collaboration with approximately 100 Affiliate Partners—school districts, museums, colleges and universities, libraries, and other educational organizations—the Alliance reaches out to hundreds of thousands of students in grades 7–12 and invites them to submit their creative works to the Awards. Outstanding works are recognized and presented to a large audience through regional and national award ceremonies and exhibitions, publications, and online galleries. Students with exceptional artistic and literary talents and skills also receive scholarship opportunities. Every year, the Alliance brings together families, educators, community members, philanthropists, and major players in the arts and education to celebrate and support creative youth and future leaders. In addition to serving teens, the Alliance also provides audience and community building, programmatic opportunities, talent identification, and an additional endorsement of the importance of arts and literary education; networking and career explorations for our alumni; and appreciation and encouragement for educators with tools and workshops that help them develop the creative capacity of their students.
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, Carolyn Clark Powers, Marina Kellen French, and Scholastic, Inc.
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.