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Message From the Chairman

The National Medal of Arts is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government. These individuals, through their creativity, inspiration, and hard work, have significantly enriched the cultural life of our nation.

When the award program began in 1984, it was envisioned that the National Medal of Arts would honor the extraordinary accomplishments of those engaged in the creation and production of the arts in the United States. Looking at the list of those honored over the past 31 years, one can see the breadth of artistic endeavors in this country. From writers such as Ray Bradbury, Rita Dove, and Ralph Ellison to visual artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe, Frank Stella, and Maya Lin to musicians Van Cliburn, Jessye Norman, Mel Tillis to actors Al Pacino, Rita Moreno, and Meryl Streep, and many others, the map of American artistic achievement is clearly drawn.

We at the Arts Endowment strive to support artistic excellence in the United States, and the National Medal of Arts recipients demonstrate that the arts are continuing to thrive. Dynamic, diverse, and original, the arts are an essential part of our American identity and civilization. As President Obama stated at the 2011 ceremony, "America has also advanced because of paintings and poems, stories and songs; the dramas and the dances that provide us comfort and instilled in us confidence; inspired in us a sense of mutual understanding, and a calling to always strive for a more perfect union."

If you need further information, please contact the NEA's Office of the Chief of Staff at 202.682.5434.

Thank you for your participation. 

Mary Anne Carter
National Endowment for the Arts