Announcement of the Recipients of the National Medal of Arts


July 28, 1988


The President and Mrs. Reagan will present the National Medal of Arts to 12 Americans who have made a major contribution to the cultural life of the Nation. The awards ceremony will take place during a White House luncheon honoring the recipients on August 9th.


The 1988 National Medal of Arts will be awarded to writer Saul Bellow, actress Helen Hayes, photographer/film director Gordon Parks, architect I.M. Pei, dancer/choreographer Jerome Robbins, pianist Rudolf Serkin, composer/conductor Virgil Thomson, art historian/curator Sydney J. Freedberg, arts administrator Roger L. Stevens, arts patron Brooke (Mrs. Vincent) Astor, music patron Francis Goelet, and arts patron Obert C. Tanner. This will be the fourth annual presentation of the National Medal of Arts, which unlike other arts awards is not limited to a single field or area of endeavor. The medal is designed to honor those who have encouraged the arts in this country and offered inspiration to others either through distinguished achievement, support, or patronage.


Proposed by President Reagan, the National Medal of Arts was approved by Congress and enacted into law in 1984. It specifically authorizes the President to award no more than 12 medals each year ``to individuals or groups who in the President's judgment are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in the United States.'' Sculptor Robert Graham designed the National Medal of Arts. The 4-inch sterling silver medal depicts six dancing figures and the words ``National Medal of Arts'' in bas-relief on the obverse. The reverse of the medal bears the cast words ``United States of America'' and the engraved name of the individual recipient.


Nominations for the National Medal of Arts are sought annually by the National Endowment for the Arts. Recommendations for recipients of the medal are made by the National Council on the Arts, the Endowment's Presidentially appointed advisory body, of the most highly qualified candidates. These recommendations are then forwarded to the White House for final selection by the President.