NEW YORK, February 20, 2018— “It is with great pride that the American Academy of Arts and Letters announces the election of notable architect Billie Tsien to be its next president,” said the composer Yehudi Wyner, whose term as president ended in January 2018. Ms. Tsien, who was inducted into the Academy in 2007, will serve a three-year term. She previously chaired the Academy’s architecture awards committee and served as secretary on the board of directors.
“I am profoundly aware of the accomplishments of those who have come before me,” said Ms. Tsien, “so although the word ‘humbled’ is overused, I am both humbled and honored to become the president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.”
“Today the Academy is ever more relevant as an institution that recognizes and—most importantly—supports art, literature, and music in our country,” she continued. “What we do is value the invaluable.”
Billie Tsien was born in Ithaca, NY, and received her undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from Yale University and her Master of Architecture degree from UCLA. In 1986 she and Tod Williams founded their architecture firm Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners in New York City.
Their studio focuses on work for institutions including schools, museums, and not-for-profits—organizations and people who value issues of aspiration and meaning, timelessness and beauty. Notable projects include The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, and the Asia Society Center in Hong Kong. They are currently designing The Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. Over the past three decades they have received numerous national and international citations including the 2013 National Medal of the Arts from President Obama.
Outside the studio, Ms. Tsien is a devoted participant in the cultural community and has many long-standing associations with organizations supporting the arts. In parallel with her practice Ms. Tsien also maintains an active academic career and lectures worldwide. As both an educator and practitioner, she is deeply committed to making a better world through architecture.
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, 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.
Billie Tsien ̶ photograph by Chris Sturman