Trump Hasn’t Given Out the National Medal of Arts. Here’s Why That Matters.
Every year since 1985, the President of the United States has recognized our country’s greatest artists with the National Medal of Arts. Many dancers and choreographers—from Martha Graham to Tommy Tune to Edward Villella—have received the award.
But President Trump has yet to award any artists (the deadline for the 2016 medals was last February, and historically the ceremony has been held later the same year). Though the White House says it will “likely” issue awards later in 2018, this is the longest gap between ceremonies since the founding of the award—and it speaks to the current administration’s general disinterest in the arts.
Since taking office a year and a half ago, President Trump has held no dance performances at the White House, and aside from the military band, no performances whatsoever. He has frequently disparaged artists, from Meryl Streep to the cast of Hamilton. The fate of the National Endowment for the Arts has also come into question. If the President does indeed continue with the award, we wonder how his attitude toward artists will affect who is chosen—and whether artists will even accept the honor. (Carmen de Lavallade and several other Kennedy Center honorees skipped the White House reception last year to boycott the President.)
None of this will stop us from continuing to celebrate worthy dance artists—or from remembering the many dancers and choreographers who’ve been honored by past Presidents:
Martha Graham, 1985 (President Ronald Reagan)
Agnes de Mille, 1986 (President Ronald Reagan)
Alwin Nikolais, 1987 (President Ronald Reagan)
Jerome Robbins, 1988 (President Ronald Reagan)
Katherine Dunham, 1989 (President George H.W. Bush)
Merce Cunningham, 1990 (President George H.W. Bush)
Pearl Primus, 1991 (President George H.W. Bush)
Paul Taylor, 1993 (President Bill Clinton)
Gene Kelly, 1994 (President Bill Clinton)
Arthur Mitchell, 1995 (President Bill Clinton)
Edward Villella, 1997 (President Bill Clinton)
Jacques d’Amboise, 1998 (President Bill Clinton)
Gwen Verdon, 1998 (President Bill Clinton)
By George Platt Lynes.
Maria Tallchief, 1999 (President Bill Clinton)
Mikhail Baryshnikov, 2000 (President Bill Clinton)
Judith Jamison, 2001 (President George W. Bush)
Trisha Brown, 2002 (President George W. Bush)
Suzanne Farrell, 2003 (President George W. Bush)
By Franco Lacosta, courtesy Tune
Tommy Tune, 2003 (President George W. Bush)
By Marc van Borstel