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Arts & Humanities Honor Diversity Of U.S. Culture

Arts and Humanities Medals Honor Diversity of U.S. Culture

Legendary American Indian novelist N. Scott Momaday, realist artist Andrew Wyeth, novelist and critic Cynthia Ozick, masterful musician and instrument designer Les Paul, and Yiddish literature scholar Ruth Wisse were among the 18 individuals and two organizations honored this year by the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal at a White House ceremony November 15.

President Bush pointed to "the great strength and diversity of American culture" as he hailed the arts honorees for having created "some of the emblematic images of our time, supported museums and theaters and helped nurture young talent."

Of the recipients of humanities medals, he said, "these men and women have shaped our understanding of the past, chronicled stories of tyranny overcome by liberty, and helped preserve our cultural treasures for future generations."

The National Medal of Arts was established in 1984 by the U.S. Congress, which authorized the president to award up to 12 medals to "individuals or groups who are deserving of special recognition of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States," according to the National Medal of Arts Web site.

The National Humanities Medal was inaugurated in 1997 to honor up to 12 "individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens' engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans' access to important resources in the humanities," according to the medal's Web site.

This year's recipients include Henry Steinway, whose patronage of the arts and espousal of arts education is the natural result of his family's generations-long history of fashioning of quality pianos; the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho, a 40-year-old institution that introduces the nation's schoolchildren to jazz, particularly reaching out in recent years to the Nez Perce Indians of the region; Polish-born American historian Richard Pipes, a scholar on Russia and Eastern Europe; and Russell Freedman, a writer of biographies for young readers on subjects with memorable character traits.

First lady Laura Bush underscored the wide expanse of the winners' careers. "Our culture is vibrant when we honor a custodian of history in rural Wyoming [Pauline L. Schultz] and a founder of a start-up daily newspaper in the heart of New York [Roger Hartog]," she said.

The individuals and institutions honored by both medals are selected by the president from among recommendations by the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities advisory bodies.

Following are the 2007 recipients of National Medal of Arts and brief excerpts from the citations:

• Erich Kunzel, conductor of classical and popular music that has "expanded the appeal of both and brought great music to millions."

• Morten Lauridsen, creator of "radiant choral works combining musical power, beauty and spiritual depth."

• N. Scott Momaday, author of works "that celebrate and preserve Native American art and oral tradition."

• Roy R. Neuberger, for "longstanding personal patronage of America's young and emerging visual artists."

• Craig Noel, artistic director of San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, "director of hundreds of plays and a mentor to generations of artists."

• Les Paul, musical innovator and electric guitar designer, whose "groundbreaking recording techniques ... have influenced the development of American jazz, blues and pop music, and inspired generations of guitarists."

• Henry Z. Steinway, for "preserving and promoting quality craftsmanship and performance, as an arts patron and advocate for music and music education."

• George Tooker, artist of the magic realism school, whose "metaphysical works reveal man's journey from despair to triumph."

• The University of Idaho Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, for preserving and promoting jazz, educating teachers and young musicians and exploring "diverse cultural connections forged by Lionel Hampton in collaboration with the Nez Perce."

• Andrew Wyeth, a world-renowned painter "whose austere vision has displayed the depth and dignity of American life."

Following are the 2007 recipients of National Humanities Medal:

• Stephen H. Balch, "for his leadership and advocacy upholding the noblest traditions of higher education."

• Russell Freedman, who, "with great insight and creativity, has awakened young readers to our nation's ongoing quest for justice for all."

• Victor Davis Hanson, whose scholarship on civilizations past and present "has brought forth an abundant harvest of wisdom for our times."

• Roger Hertog, whose "wisdom and generosity have rejuvenated the institutions that are the keepers of American memory."

• Cynthia Ozick, for her literary criticism and essays, in which "she has been a lifelong advocate and practitioner of moral clarity and literary excellence."

• Richard Pipes, who, through his scholarship on Russia and Eastern Europe, "has shaped and sharpened our understanding of the contest between liberty and tyranny."

• Pauline L. Schultz, "a collector and curator of facts and artifacts that capture a century of human experience on Wyoming's high plains."

• Henry Leonard Snyder, whose "direction of massive projects in the digital humanities has opened new frontiers in cataloguing and preserving ideas and documents for future generations."

• Ruth R. Wisse, whose "insightful writings have enriched our understanding of Yiddish literature and Jewish culture in the modern world."

• Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, for "sustained efforts to identify and recognize the contributions of the scholar-soldiers of the Second World War," by rescuing and preserving "a precious portion of the world's heritage."


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