Each year, the National Endowment for the Arts invites nominations from the public for the National Medal of Arts, 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 – people and organizations who have made a significant impact on the nation’s culture. The first class alone included composer Elliot Carter, author Ralph Ellison, actor José Ferrer, choreographer and dancer Martha Graham, visual artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and opera singer Leontyne Price, as well as arts patrons Paul Mellon and Alice Tully.
In the intervening years, the award has continued to honor those who keep the arts thriving in communities throughout the country. Their creative expression reaches diverse populations both urban and rural, and helps us all to live artful lives.
Through the work of these recipients we are better able to experience the power of the arts. Because of them our lives are richer, our communities are more vibrant and our diversity is expressed and celebrated. These are the artists and arts leaders that we recognize with the National Medal of Arts.
We at the Arts Endowment hope you will nominate an artist, arts organization, or arts patron that you think is worthy of this great honor.