NEA Arts Magazine

President Bush Presents National Medal of Arts, Awards Cultural Leaders

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Dana Gioia and President Bush

Chairman Gioia is awarded a Citizens Medal from President Bush at the National Medal of Arts ceremony. Photo by Sally Gifford

In a White House ceremony on November 17, President George W. Bush presented the 2008 National Medal of Arts to nine U.S. artists and arts organizations in recognition of their extraordinary and enduring contributions to the nation's arts and culture heritage. The recipients included actress Olivia de Havilland, NEA Jazz Master Hank Jones, comic book pioneer Stan Lee, sculptor Jesús Moroles, songwriting team Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Ford's Theatre Society, the José Limón Dance Foundation, and The Presser Foundation. The presentation included a stirring performance by the Fisk Jubilee Singers. The historic group had first performed at the White House during the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant, the very first African-American group to receive such an honor.

Richard Sherman at the piano

National Medal of Arts recipient Richard M. Sherman demonstrates his prowess on the piano at the dinner for the awardees.

The President went on to surprise Chairman Gioia, National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Bruce Cole, President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities Chair Adair Margo, and former Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Director Robert S. Martin with Presidential Citizens Medals for their public service in support of the arts. A fifth Citizens Medal went to current IMLS Director Anne-Imelda Radice, who was unable to attend the event. These are the first ever Citizens Medals given to the leaders of the nation's cultural agencies.

Chairman Gioia was visibly moved as the citation to his medal was read: "A distinguished poet and educator, Dana Gioia has helped strengthen the role of the arts in our country. He has advanced some of our most treasured traditions, expanded public support for the arts and arts education, and increased the understanding and appreciation of the arts among our nation's youth. The United States honors Dana Gioia for his dedication to fostering creativity and expression and for helping preserve America's rich artistic legacy."

Fisk Jubilee Signers standing in three rows, performing at the ceremony

The Fisk Jubilee Singers, 2008 National Medal of Arts recipients, performed at the awards ceremony in the White House.