President Obama recently awarded the National Medal of Arts to 11 individuals and the Washington Performing Arts Society. During the past 27 years, nearly 300 extraordinary patrons and artists in the fields of visual, performing, and literary arts have been honored. Of the 11 individuals honored this year, three are African Americans. Two have extension ties to education.
Ernest J. Gaines is the writer-in-residence emeritus at the University of Louisiana Lafayette. The Ernest J. Gaines Center located in the Edith Garland Dupre Library on the University of Louisiana Lafayette campus is an international center for scholarship on the author’s work.
The citation for Gaines’ award states, “Drawing deeply from his childhood in the rural South, his works have shed new life on the African American experience and given voice to those who have endured justice.”
Joan Myers Brown is the founder of The Philadelphia Dance Company or Phildanco. She also established the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts and the International Conference of Black Dance Companies. Brown serves on the dance faculty at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
Brown is the subject of the book Joan Myers Brown & the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of American Performance by Brenda Dixon Gottschild (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
Allen Toussaint, a native of New Orleans, is a musician, composer, and record producer. Many of his compositions have been made into top hits by other artists. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, and the Blues Hall of Fame.
The citation for his award stated, “Mr. Toussaint has built a legendary career alongside America’s finest musicians, sustaining his city’s rich tradition of rhythm and blues and lifting it to the national stage.”