Obama to honour Meryl Streep, James Taylor

2011-03-02 07:35

Washington – Actress Meryl Streep, singer-songwriter James Taylor and author Joyce Carol Oates are among the cultural luminaries named yesterday as recipients of prestigious White House awards for the arts and humanities.

President Barack Obama is slated to formally present the 2010 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal to 20 honourees – 10 recipients for each – in a ceremony at the East Room of the White House today.

Besides Streep, the Oscar-celebrated film actress, and Taylor, the Grammy-toasted recording star, the latest Medal of Arts winners include composer and producer Quincy Jones, jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins and author Harper Lee, whose literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird earned a Pulitzer Prize.

Neither Streep nor Lee was expected to attend the presentation.

Oates, a National Book Award winner whose body of work includes over 50 novels, as well as short stories, poetry and nonfiction, joins a roster of Humanities Medallists that includes three Pulitzer laureates – Portnoy’s Complaint novelist Philip Roth and author-historians Gordon Wood and Bernard Bailyn.

Other 2010 arts medallists were: playwright-producer Robert Brustein; pianist Van Cliburn; abstract expressionist sculptor Mark di Suvero; poet Donald Hall and the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Rounding out the list of humanities medallists were librarian Daniel Aaron, cultural historian Jacques Barzun; writer Wendell E. Berry; Hispanic literary scholar Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria; biographer and literary critic Arnold Rampersad; and Stanley Nider Katz, longtime president of the American Council of Learned Societies.

The National Medal of Arts, established by Congress in 1984, is the highest government award given to artists and art patrons. The National Humanities Medal was inaugurated in 1997.

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