On the morning of Sept. 22, author Sandra Cisneros will receive the National Medal of Arts from President Obama, in a ceremony recognizing contributors of the arts and humanities. Cisneros is best known for her first novel, The House on Mango Street: an American Book Award-winning coming-of-age story about a Latina girl growing up in Chicago. She is also the author of Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories and Caramelo, or, Puro cuento, among other titles.
Cisneros won't be the only published author recognized in the East Room awards ceremony. Of the 24 combined recipients of the 2015 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal, 18 have written at least one book, although many are not writers by trade.
One non-profit organization, the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center, joins 11 individuals in receiving the 2015 National Medal of Arts. Located in Waterford, Connecticut, the O'Neill has helped produce such Broadway hits as Avenue Q and In the Heights, and has "launched the careers of" many of today's stage, television, and film stars, including "Lin-Manuel Miranda, ... Michael Douglas, Meryl Streep, John Krasinski, Jennifer Garner, Rachel Dratch, Elizabeth Olsen, and thousands more." O'Neill alums who have received the National Endowment for the Arts' highest honor include "Edward Albee, Robert Redford, ... and Meryl Streep."
Listed below with a brief blurb from their citations, the recipients of the 2015 National Medal of Arts are:
- Mel Brooks, "for a lifetime of making the world laugh."
- Sandra Cisneros, "for enriching the American narrative."
- Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center, "for its unwavering support of American theater."
- Morgan Freeman, "for his outstanding work as an actor, director, and narrator."
- Philip Glass, "for his groundbreaking contributions to music and composition."
- Berry Gordy, "for helping to create a trailblazing new sound in American music."
- Santiago Jiménez, Jr., "for expanding the horizon of American music."
- Moisés Kaufman, "for his powerful contributions to American theater."
- Ralph Lemon, "for his contribution to dance and the visual arts."
- Audra McDonald, "for lighting up Broadway as one of its brightest stars."
- Luis Valdez, "for bringing Chicano culture to American drama."
- Jack Whitten, "for remaking the American canvas."
The 2015 National Humanities Medal will be awarded to 12 recipients on Sep. 22 as well. Like the National Medal of Arts, the National Humanities Medal also honors one non-profit organization — the Prison University Project, which provides higher education programs to inmates at California's San Quentin State Prison — and 11 individual awardees this year.
Most notable among the individuals who will receive the 2015 National Humanities Medal are Rudolfo Anaya and Ron Chernow. Anaya is a Chicano author, best known for his 1972 novel: Bless Me, Ultima. Chernow wrote Alexander Hamilton, the biography that famously inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda's runaway hit musical, Hamilton. Also recognized are Fresh Air host Terry Gross and National Book Award-winner James McBride.
The recipients of the 2015 National Humanities Medal are:
- Rudolfo Anaya, "for his pioneering stories of the American southwest."
- José Andrés, "for cultivating our palettes and shaping our culture."
- Ron Chernow, "for bringing our Nation’s story to life."
- Louise Glück, "for giving lyrical expression to our inner conflicts."
- Terry Gross, "for her artful probing of the human experience."
- Wynton Marsalis, "for celebrating the traditions of jazz music from New Orleans to Lincoln Center and beyond."
- James McBride, "for humanizing the complexities of discussing race in America."
- Louis Menand, "for prose and essays that invite us to think in new ways about the forces shaping our society."
- Elaine Pagels, "for her exploration of faith and its traditions."
- Prison University Project, "for transforming the lives of currently incarcerated people through higher education."
- Abraham Verghese, "for reminding us that the patient is the center of the medical enterprise."
- Isabel Wilkerson, "for championing the stories of an unsung history."
President Obama will present the 2015 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal to these worthy recipients on the morning of Sep. 22.