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Yehudi Wyner, Rita Dove, and Phong Bui Receive Highest Honors

Contact: Ashley Fedor

(212) 368-5900


NEW YORK, March 26, 2021—The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced the recipients of its highest honors for excellence in the arts. Composer Yehudi Wyner and poet Rita Dove have been awarded the Gold Medals for Music and Poetry, 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. Artist and writer Phong Bui will be recognized for his significant contribution to the arts as co-founder and artistic director of the Brooklyn Rail. The recipients were chosen by the members of the Academy.


Gold Medal for Music

Gold Medal for Poetry

Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts




Composer Yehudi Wyner has taught at Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Brandeis, and the Tanglewood Music Center, and has been honored with concerts world-wide, as well as countless recordings and commissions. His awards include the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in music for his piano concerto Chiavi in Mano, the Rome Prize in musical composition, and two Guggenheim fellowships. He is a true ambassador in the belief that the history of civilization is written in art whose creation and appreciation is universal across continents, cultures, and languages. He was elected a member of the Academy in 1999, and served as president from 2015 to 2018.


Poet and essayist Rita Dove penetrates the cultural smokescreen of history, interrogating national memory and longing in books of remarkable range. The first Black Poet Laureate at the age of forty, she received the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for her book Thomas and Beulah. She has edited The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century Poetry and received both the National Humanities Medal (from President Bill Clinton, 1996) as well as the National Medal of Arts (from President Barack Obama, 2012). She was a elected a member of the Academy in 2011. She currently teaches in the Department of English at the University of Virginia.


For two decades Phong Bui has poured his vision and creative energy into The Brooklyn Rail, a free monthly arts, culture, and politics journal. With Bui at the helm, the publication has grown into an international forum that has revitalized a meaningful dialogue across disciplines in the art world and beyond. His own work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at spaces such as the Brooklyn Museum and the Colby Museum of Art. A 2006 recipient of an Arts and Letters Award in Art from the Academy, Bui has taught at Yale University and the Rhode Island School of Design, among others.



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, 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 $TK million.

Photo credits:
Yehudi Wyner – Photograph by Michael Lovett
Rita Dove – Photograph by Fred Viebahn
Phong Bui – Photograph by Nicola Delorme

© 2021 American Academy of Arts and Letters