NEW YORK, March 5, 2021—Twenty-nine new members and four honorary members will be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters during its virtual award ceremony on May 19 at 7 p.m. EST.
Membership in the Academy is limited to 300 architects, visual artists, composers, and writers who are elected for life and pay no dues. The new members were elected by vote of the existing membership. The honor of election is considered the highest form of recognition of artistic merit in the United States.
In November, the members of the Academy voted to increase regular membership from 250, where it had stood since 1908, to 300. The board of directors is committed to creating a more inclusive membership that truly represents America, and believes that expanding the Academy’s membership will allow the Academy to more readily achieve that goal. The increase also reflects the growth in population over the past century. The expansion will be realized incrementally over the next five years.
In addition to its regular membership, the Academy’s American Honorary membership recognizes up to twenty Americans of extraordinary artistic achievement whose work encompasses contributions beyond the fields of architecture, art, literature, and music, while Foreign Honorary membership celebrates up to seventy-five distinguished architects, artists, writers, and composers from other counties whose work the Academy’s membership greatly admires.
2021 Newly Elected Members
LESLIE MARMON SILKO
TRACY K. SMITH
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 300 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 totaling more than $1 million, exhibiting art and manuscripts, funding performances of new works of musical theater, and purchasing artwork for donation to museums across the country.
Hilton Als – photograph by Brigitte Lacombe
Mikhail Baryshnikov – photograph by Peter Baryshnikov
Marlon Blackwell – photograph by Mark Jackson/CHROMA
Mark Bradford – Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth; photograph by Sim Canetty-Clarke
Mel Chin – photograph by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Unsuk Chin – photograph by Priska Ketterer
Ta-Nehisi Coates – photograph by Gabriela Demczuk/NYT/Redux
Theaster Gates – photograph by Rankin
Joy Harjo – photograph by Matika Wilbur
Michael Heizer – photograph by John Weber
Barbara Kingsolver – photograph by Evan Kafka
Glenn Ligon – photograph by Jackie Neale
Caryl Phillips – photograph by Mariana Cook
Faith Ringgold – photograph by Grace Matthews
Betye Saar – photograph courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, CA; photograph by David Sprague
Lorna Simpson – photograph by James Wang
Tracy K. Smith – Photograph courtesy of Blue Flower Arts; photograph by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Nader Tehrani – photograph by Carmen Maldonado
Henry Threadgill – photograph by John Rogers
Kevin Young – photograph by Melanie Dunea