by Chris Hale
9 October 2008

   Every October, the leading non-profit organization Americans for the Arts, holds their National Arts Awards and celebrates Humanities Month. The National Arts Awards “celebrate the achievements of individuals who have exhibited outstanding leadership in the visual and performing arts, arts education, advocacy, and philanthropy.”
   This year, the National Arts Awards honored another spectrum of unique individuals in the arts and was held on October 6th at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. The annual awards event was chaired by Americans for the Arts board member Maria Bell. The president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, Robert L. Lynch welcomed the honorees: Dame Julie Andrews, Phil Ramone, Yoko Ono, Kehinde Wiley, Joan W. Harris, and J. Barry Griswell of the Principal Financial Group.

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   The always regal Julie Andrews was the recipient of the National Arts Lifetime Achievement Award for her “profound contributions to both music and acting and for serving as a great role model and mentor for all aspiring artists. She is a champion of the literary arts and a dedicated advocate for childhood literacy. Dame Andrews is a treasured member of the arts community and a source of great national and international pride. The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to a nationally recognized, established artist with a history of exemplary artistic accomplishment in his or her field.” A musical tribute was performed by the chorale of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts with selections from her famous classic musicals The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. The award was presented to Julie Andrews by Mary Rodgers, the daughter of the legendary Broadway composer Richard Rodgers, and received a standing ovation.
   Legendary music producer Phil Ramone was the recipient of the Arts Advocacy Award with Billy Joel presenting the tribute. The chorale of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts performed the Billy Joel classic New York State of Mind in tribute to Phil Ramone, a longtime producer of Billy Joel’s albums.

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   Among the other honorees, Yoko Ono received the Kitty Carlisle Hart Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts, artist Kehinde Wiley received the Young Artist Award for Artistic Excellence, Joan W. Harris received the Frederick R. Weisman Award for Philanthropy in the Arts, and J. Barry Griswell of the Principal Financial Group accepted the Corporate Citizenship in the Arts Award.
   The Americans for the Arts has been around for 48 years promoting and advancing the arts in America. Donations to help preserve the arts through this wonderful organization can be made by visiting http://www.artsactionfund.org 

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All Photos: (c) Caroline P. Digonis 2008