Americans for the Arts will present the annual National Arts Awards on Monday, October 21, as part of National Arts and Humanities Month. The awards recognize and celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of national leaders whose work demonstrates extraordinary achievement and advances the arts in the United States.
This year’s National Arts Awards honorees are:
- Luchita Hurtado – Carolyn Clark Powers Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Zoe Saldana
- Ben Folds – Marina Kellen French Outstanding Contributions to the Arts Award, presented by Jon Batiste
- The Honorable Earle I. Mack – Philanthropy in the Arts Award, presented by Governor George Pataki
- Ben Platt – Ted Arison Young Artist Award, presenter TBD
- CMA Foundation – Arts Education Award, presented by Chris Young
The awards will be presented at a gala dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City, and chaired by Carolyn Clark Powers in her final year as chairwoman. Co-chairs for the event are Sarah Arison, David and Susan Goode, Agnes Gund, Marina Kellen French, Jeff and Justine Koons, and Nora C. Orphanides. The evening will feature the work of artist and honoree Luchita Hurtado. The evening will also feature a special musical performance by alumni of the National YoungArts Foundation, which awards young teenage artists of excellence, with musical direction by Jake Goldbas.
“We are thrilled to celebrate the achievements of this year’s tremendous group of National Arts Awards honorees—all visionaries in the arts. We honor them for their own artistic contributions and for their advocacy on behalf of creating more opportunity for all to engage with the arts. Their persistence to strengthen the arts in communities across America will continue to serve as an inspiration,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “I would also like to offer my gratitude to the wonderful Carolyn Clark Powers for her dedication and tenure as the chairwoman of the National Arts Awards these past five years. This event would not have been the success it has been over the last half decade without her continued support and we thank her for her service in uplifting and celebrating the arts.”
Powers commented, “It is thrilling that my namesake Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to the Venezuelan-born painter Luchita Hurtado, whose extraordinary artwork is devoted to helping us better understand how we are all connected both to one another—and to the earth. At 98 years old, she is one of those overnight sensations who was recently ‘discovered’ by the public after her more than seven decades of expansive work created mostly in obscurity. Now she is considered one of the foremost modern artists in California and beyond. Luchita and I share a love for life by the water in Los Angeles—and a love of indigenous, Modernist, surreal and abstract art. I’m honored to recognize her career and her exceptional energy, vision, art and talent with this lifetime award.”
Powers’ five-year term as Chair of the National Arts Awards comes to an end this year. “After attending the National Arts Awards for many years, it has been an honor to serve as Chair at a time when it has felt particularly important to come together and celebrate the transformative power of the arts. Through the Carolyn Clark Powers Lifetime Achievement Award, I have acknowledged inimitable artists with exemplary lifetime career accomplishments; and with each award we have proudly celebrated honorees for the indelible mark they have left on the cultural fabric of our nation.”
About the 2019 National Arts Awards Honorees
Now just shy of her 99th birthday, Luchita Hurtado was born in Maiquetía, Venezuela, in 1920. She has dedicated 70 years of her painting and drawing practice to the investigation of universality and transcendence. Developing her artistic vocabulary through a coalescence of abstraction, mysticism, corporality, and landscape, the breadth of her experimentation with unconventional techniques, materials, and styles speak to the multicultural and experiential contexts that have shaped her life and career. Ms. Hurtado emigrated to the United States in 1928, settling in New York, where she attended classes at the Art Students League. She relocated to Mexico City in the late 1940s, and in the following decade, moved to the San Francisco Bay area, making frequent visits to Taos, New Mexico, and ultimately settling in Los Angeles.
Although she associated with a vast network of internationally renowned artists and intellectuals—including members of Dynaton, Mexican muralists, and Surrealists—Ms. Hurtado’s practice has always remained an independent pursuit. Her body of work is cohered through an examination of self-affirmation, introduced in her early period from the 1940s to the 1960s in an output defined by surrealist figuration, biomorphism, and geometric abstraction, executed in brightly hued palettes with striking expressive range. Her work continued to evolve throughout the 1960s and 1970s, demonstrating a marked shift toward naturalistic representation and figuration that led to a production of contemplative self-portraits known as her ‘I am’ paintings. Her surrealist Body Landscapes underscore the interconnection between corporeality and the natural world—a delicate balance that is now in jeopardy. She recognizes the urgency of this ecological crisis, and her environmental advocacy continues to inform and suffuse the ever-expansive visual language of her work.
This past July 4, she was recognized as one of the 2019 Great Immigrants by the Carnegie Corporation in honor of its namesake, Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie. In 2019, she was also named to TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people list and had her first museum retrospective, Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn, at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London. Mexico City’s Museo Tamayo will host a retrospective of her work in 2020, when she turns 100. Her work is in the permanent collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others.
Ben Folds is widely regarded as one of the major music influencers of our generation. The multi-platinum-selling singer-songwriter has created an enormous body of genre-bending music that includes pop albums with Ben Folds Five, multiple solo albums, and numerous collaborative records. His last album was a blend of pop songs and his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra soared to No. 1 on both the Billboard classical and classical crossover charts. For over a decade, he’s performed with some of the world’s greatest symphony orchestras, and he currently serves as the first ever artistic advisor to the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.
In addition to solo rock and orchestral touring, Mr. Folds has recently written his critically acclaimed memoir A Dream About Lightning Bugs, which debuted as a New York Times best seller, and is described as a collection of interrelated essays, anecdotes, and what he refers to as “cheap lessons” about art, life, and music.
He is also no stranger to television, having been featured for five seasons as a judge on NBC’s critically acclaimed a cappella show The Sing Off. He continues to appear in cameo roles on cable and network television shows and composes for film and TV.
An avid photographer, he is a member of the prestigious Sony Artisans of Imagery, has worked as an assignment photo editor for National Geographic, and was featured in a mini-documentary by the Kennedy Center’s Digital Project on his photographic work.
An outspoken champion for arts education and music therapy funding in our nation’s public schools, in 2016 Mr. Folds held the distinction of being the only artist to appear at both national political conventions advocating for arts education, alongside Americans for the Arts. He has served for more than five years as an active member of the Americans for the Arts Artists Committee and serves on the board of the Americans for the Arts Action Fund. He also chairs the Arts Action Fund’s ArtsVote 2020 national initiative to advocate for a greater commitment to the nation’s creative economy through improved public policies for the arts and arts education, and hosts an ArtsVote 2020 podcast series of interviews on arts policies with current 2020 presidential candidates.
The Honorable Earle I. Mack
The Honorable Earle I. Mack is an American businessman, philanthropist, and former Ambassador to Finland (2004–2005). He has a keen interest in the arts and culture, political policy, thoroughbred breeding and racing, and, through his founding of the Man O’ War Project at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, equine therapy for veterans suffering from PTSD. In his long career, Ambassador Mack served as a senior partner of The Mack Company, a prominent real estate development, investment, and management firm established more than a century ago, and became a founding board member of Mack-Cali Realty Corporation after The Mack Company merged with Cali Realty in 1997.
Ambassador Mack’s commitment to public service includes his appointment from Governor George Pataki as the chairman of the New York State Council on the Arts from 1996–1999; he was named chairman emeritus upon his retirement. In 2000, he received the New York State Governor’s Arts Award for outstanding leadership in the arts from Governor Pataki.
Ambassador Mack led five private rescue missions—as a first responder—of doctors and medical supplies to Port au Prince after the Haiti earthquake in 2010. He also served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Infantry and in the U.S. Reserves from 1960–1968.
He has produced or co-produced notable films and Broadway plays, including the Oscar-nominated The Children of Theatre Street, a 1977 feature documentary—which he produced and co-directed—on Russia’s Vaganova Choreographic Institute (Kirov Ballet School). The documentary was narrated by Princess Grace of Monaco in her last major appearance in a film.
A long-time member of the New York City Ballet’s board of directors, he was also a former co-chairman of the board of the Dance Theatre of Harlem and a board member of the American Friends of the Paris Opera and Ballet. Understanding the important role that the arts play in economic development, Ambassador Mack has also served as chairman of Arts Rebuild New York and on the advisory council for Arts, Education, and Tourism for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, as well as former vice chairman of the board of the New York City-based advocacy organization Alliance for the Arts.
Ambassador Mack received his Bachelor of Science from Drexel University and attended Fordham Law School. Long interested in legal education, he is the founding donor of the Drexel University School of Law and is past chairman and chairman emeritus of the board of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. He has received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Drexel University School of Law and Fordham Law School, as well as honorary degrees from Franklin Pierce University, Drexel University, Yeshiva University, Daemen College, and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winner Ben Platt stars in the new Ryan Murphy series, The Politician, which received a two-season, straight-to-series order from Netflix and was released September 27. He starred in Run This Town alongside Damian Lewis and Nina Dobrev, which premiered at this year’s SXSW film festival to rave reviews. It was recently announced that Mr. Platt will be starring alongside Beanie Feldstein in the film adaption of the Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along, directed by Richard Linklater.
Mr. Platt is an Atlantic Records artist who recently dropped his critically acclaimed debut album, Sing To Me Instead, along with a new single not on the album called “Rain,” which he debuted at this year’s US Open. No stranger to the big screen, Mr. Platt is known for his role as Benji Applebaum in Universal Pictures’ smash hits Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2. He has starred in Ricki and the Flash alongside Meryl Streep and in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, as well as guest starred in the Will & Grace reboot for NBC. He also filmed Broken Diamonds directed by Peter Sattler.
Mr. Platt won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his performance as Evan Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen. The musical debuted at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., with Mr. Platt originating the role of Evan Hansen. Mr. Platt was also awarded the Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance, making him the youngest actor to win the coveted award. Dear Evan Hansen went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical. The cast recording took home the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album, as well as a Daytime Emmy Award for their performance on The Today Show. During Dear Evan Hansen’s off-Broadway run at Second Stage Theatre, Mr. Platt was awarded an Obie and Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead.
Mr. Platt made his Broadway debut as Elder Cunningham in Broadway’s production of Book of Mormon. He first originated the role of Elder Cunningham to critical acclaim in the show’s Chicago production, for which he won Broadway World’s Chicago Award for Best Actor in a Touring Production.
The CMA Foundation began investing in music education in 2006 after being inspired by the country music community and industry professionals who first fell in love with music within the four walls of a classroom. Because they were forever changed by their childhood music influence, and the teachers who believed in them, they were able to confidently pursue their dreams.
CMA Foundation’s passion for the arts—specifically music education—goes beyond raising the next generation of musicians. It’s about leveraging the impact that music has on students and entire school communities. Music education has proven to be an effective and invaluable tool for academic achievement and social development. They believe that now, more than ever, we need to invest in our young people to be creative, collaborative, forward-thinking leaders, that every child has the right to a high-quality music education.
It is CMA Foundation’s mission to help shape the next generation through music by improving and sustaining music education programs across the country and positively influencing entire school communities. As a national grant maker, advocacy organization, and consultant, the CMA Foundation invests millions of dollars each year to support high-quality music education for all students. Their model of giving is unique; they do not have a one-size-fits-all approach to investing. They work with each organization—school districts, cultural centers, summer camps, after-school programs—to establish a strategic plan that addresses its specific needs and can best utilize our financial resources and support. The end goal is a thriving music program that supports an entire school community.
The National Arts Awards has garnered the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations across the country. Americans for the Arts extends special gratitude to the Arison Arts Foundation, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, and Carolyn Clark Powers.
Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education in America. With offices in Washington, D.C. and New York City, it has a record of more than 55 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at www.AmericansForTheArts.org.