The American Academy of Arts and Letters has awarded its 2018 Presidential Citation to Gerry Irizarry, a design teacher at Urban Assembly Maker Academy in Manhattan. The Presidential Citation, which acknowledges achievement in the nurturing of the arts at a New York City public school, is accompanied by an honorarium of $10,000. It was awarded to Mr. Irizarry at the Academy on November 8, 2018.
GERRY IRIZARRY was born and raised in the Bronx. A student and documentarian of pop culture, he became a photographer for such urban publications as The Source, Spin, and Vibe magazines. Gerry’s passion for design thinking became the throughline for his many work experiences including graphic designer for Fat Beats Record Distribution, Loud Records, and Marvel Comics. Gerry moved to Brooklyn in 2000 to complete graduate school at Pratt Institute and earn his NYC teaching certification. He has worked with the NYC Department of Education for 15 years as a Visual Arts and Commercial Arts & Design teacher. He has developed curriculum for courses such as Design Studio and Prototyping Design. Gerry has taught at Maker Academy since the school’s opening in 2014.
UA MAKER ACADEMY is part of the Urban Assembly network, which provides intensive support for its 22 secondary schools in New York City. UA schools serve a majority of low-income students—more than 80% of whom come in below grade level—and they significantly outperform comparable schools in the city. Maker Academy’s graduation rate is 90%.
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.