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On October 24, 2017, Americans for the Arts presented the 57th annual National Arts Awards as part of National Arts and Humanities Month at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. The awards recognize artists and arts leaders who exhibit exemplary national leadership and whose work demonstrates extraordinary achievement. This year, the ceremony raised nearly $900,000, which marks the organization’s highest annual achievement in the past decade.


The 2017 honorees included legendary music producer Clive Davis; Grammy-nominated musician and activist Andra Day; renowned curator Thelma Golden, Director of the Studio Museum in Harlem; Chicago-based patrons of the arts Gael Neeson and Stefan Edlis; Pennsylvania arts community leader William Lehr; and non-profit Studio in a School Association, which fosters the creative and intellectual development of youth through quality visual arts programs.


The awards were presented by CEO Robert L. Lynch and chaired by Carolyn Clark Powers. Co-chairs for the event included Sarah Arison, David and Susan Goode, Jeff and Justine Koons, Nora C. Orphanides, and Marian M. Warden. “Tonight, our message about the power of the arts to transform lives is framed by the work of our honorees, and where the arts are positioned in the public consciousness. At this time of natural and social upheaval, we need to support the arts and each other more than ever. Art matters. Artists matter.” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, during the award ceremony.


The evening featured visual artist Sarah Sze, whose large-scale photographic work was suspended from the ceiling of Cipriani 42nd St. Former First Lady Michelle Obama made a surprise video appearance, as the presenter of the Ted Arison Young Artist Award to Andra Day, who has been working alongside the Equal Justice Initiative to promote their forthcoming national memorial to victims of lynching. Michelle expressed her gratitude to Andra: “It has been a privilege to work with you on issues nearest to my heart. Thank you so much for all that you have done to make this world a better place.”


Guests enjoyed a special musical performance by alumni of the National YoungArts Foundation, with musical direction by Jake Goldbas, including tributes to musicians integral to Clive Davis’s career, including Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, and Whitney Huston, as well as a rendition of Andra Day’s “Rise Up.” To conclude the night, Dionne Warwick delivered regards to Clive Davis in honor of his Lifetime Achievement Award. Said Dionne to the audience, “Clive knows that I love him. So I will let you know, I love Clive Davis.”


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Guests Included:

Kerry Brougher (Founding Director, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures), Thomas Cahill (Director, Studio in a School), Amy Cappelazzo (Sotheby’s), Chuck Close (Artist), Dagny Corcoran, Will Cotton (Artist), Lisa Dennison (Sotheby’s), Elizabeth Glassman (CEO Terra Foundation),  Ronald Greenberg (Gallerist), Agnes Gund (Philanthropist), Sue Hostetler (Art Basel),  Dorothy Lichtenstein (Lichtenstein Foundation), Glenn Ligon (Artist), Sarah Morris (Artist), Lisa Phillips (Director, New Museum), Joseph Singer, Ann Tenenbaum (Trustee, The Studio Museum in Harlem), Mish Tworkowski (MISH), Philippe Vergne (Director, MOCA, Los Angeles), Darren Walker (President, Ford Foundation), Adam Weinberg (Director, Whitney Museum), Damian Woetzel & Heather Watts (Ballet Dancers).

*Also in attendance was Mic Media co-founder Jake Horowitz. Earlier this week, an action-oriented opinion piece appeared on Mic’s social media platforms featuring AFTA’s Artist Committee: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Josh Grobin, Ben Folds, Kal Penn, and Julie Andrews. Since Tuesday, the video has received over 1 million views, reminding us of the power of an artist’s voice [link].


The National Arts Awards has garnered the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations across the country. Americans for the Arts extends special gratitude to Arison Arts Foundation and Carolyn Clark Powers.

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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




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