Each year, the American Academy of Arts and Letters honors of 50 composers, artists, architects and writers with cash awards ranging from $5000 to $75,000. This year’s winners are to be announced in a private ceremony that takes place on May 16, 2010. In addition, four Honorary Members will be inducted into the Academy: the actress Meryl Streep, conductor and pianist James Levine, and architects Fumihiko Maki (Japan) and Alvaro Siza (Portugal). New members of the Academy are Tania Leon, composer and conductor; Fred Lerdahl, composer; Thom Mayne, architect; authors Thomas McGuane, Richard Powers, Francine Prose and Marilynne Robinson; visual artists Thomas Nozkowski, and Peter Saul.
The Academy is a honor society of 250 members whose purpose is to foster and sustain an interest in Literature, Music, and the Fine Arts by identifying and encouraging individual artists by administering awards and prizes, exhibiting art, funding stage projects, and purchasing works to be donated to museums. It was modeled after the Académie française, and met for the first time in 1899. Its initial seven members included Mark Twain, John Hay and Edward McDowell.
Visual artists receiving awards this year are Gabrielle Bakker, William Christenberry, Aaron Gilbert, John Grade, Lothar Osterburg, Julianne Swartz, Tom Uttech, and Stanley Whitney. In addition, 16 works were chosen for purchase, to be donated to American museums. Committees, whose members are drawn from the Academy’s roster, chose the award recipients. Candidates for awards are nominated by an Academician (with the exception of the Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater).
The Academy of Arts and Letters is located at 633 West 155 Street in buildings designed by William Mitchell Kendall, Cass Gilbert, Charles Pratt Huntington and James Vincent Czajka. The Galleries, which exhibit works by members, are located on Audubon Terrace and may be accessed through the gates between 155 and 156 Streets on the west side of Broadway.print