NEW YORK, March 24th, 2020 — The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced the recipients of its highest honors for excellence in the arts. Architect Peter Eisenman and historian David W. Blight have been awarded the Gold Medals for Architecture and History, respectively. Given each year in two rotating categories of the arts, the Gold Medal is awarded to those who have achieved eminence in an entire body of work.
Writer Richard Powers will be awarded the William Dean Howells Medal, given every five years for the most distinguished American work of fiction published during that time, for The Overstory (W. W. Norton & Company, 2018). Editor and writer Bill Henderson will be recognized for his significant contribution to the arts as founder and publisher of Pushcart Press. The recipients were chosen by the members of the Academy.
Gold Medal for Architecture
Gold Medal for History
DAVID W. BLIGHT
William Dean Howells Medal
RICHARD POWERS for THE OVERSTORY
Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts
Architect, architectural theorist, and educator Peter Eisenman is the founder of Eisenman Architects and the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York, and is currently serving as a professor in the Yale University School of Architecture. He has designed and realized exceptional works such as the Wexner Center for the Visual Arts (Ohio State University); the Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Berlin); the City of Culture of Galicia (Spain); and the Aronoff Center for Design and Art (University of Cincinnati). He was elected to Academy membership in 2001.
DAVID W. BLIGHT
David W. Blight is the Sterling Professor of American History and Director of the Gilder Lehman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. He has won the Lincoln Prize, Bancroft Prize, and Frederick Douglass Prize, and is the receipient of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. In his six books on slavery, the Civil War, and its aftermath, he has established a magisterial record of the struggle for civil rights in the United States.
Novelist Richard Powers is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. Keenly interested in exploring the environment, science, and technology in his writing, with The Overstory he radically redefines the art of fiction. Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois, he lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and was elected to Academy membership in 2010.
Editor and visionary publisher Bill Henderson began Pushcart Press 40 years ago to celebrate under-celebrated writers. Devoted to publishing literature that is deserving and non-commercial, Pushcart Press started with founding editors Joyce Carol Oates, Paul Bowles, and Ralph Ellison, and continues today as the publisher of the prestigious Pushcart Prize anthology, revered among writers and recognized as among the most influential publishers in American history by Publishers Weekly. Henderson is also the author of a novel and six memoirs.
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND LETTERS
The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. Early members include William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, Julia Ward Howe, Henry James, Edward MacDowell, Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, John Singer Sargent, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton. The Academy’s 250 members are elected for life and pay no dues.
In addition to electing new members as vacancies occur, the Academy seeks to foster and sustain an interest in Literature, Music, and the Fine Arts by administering over 70 awards and prizes, exhibiting art and manuscripts, funding performances of new works of musical theater, and purchasing artwork for donation to museums across the country. This year’s total expenditures on awards and grants will be $1.3 million.