The American Academy of Arts and Letters has awarded its 2019 Presidential Citation to Jim Pratzon, a drama and English teacher at Lyons Community School in Brooklyn. 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 will be awarded to Mr. Pratzon at the Academy on November 7, 2019.
2019 marks Jim’s 21st year serving the children of New York City as a teacher. He first worked at the New York City Museum School and New Design High School before becoming a founding faculty member at Lyons Community School in Brooklyn. For nine years he has been the artistic director of the Lyons’ Needs Theatre Company, leading his classes through the challenges of theatre games, improvisation, and Shakespeare, culminating in an annual festival of theatre skills. Additionally Jim has taught a wide variety of subjects and electives including world religions, comparative biology, art history, geography, the plays of August Wilson and the adventures of Gilgamesh.
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, 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.