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Streep, James Taylor, Quincy Jones, Sonny Rollins, Van Cliburn, Philip Roth among national arts and humanities medalists

March 1, 2011 |  1:45 pm

MarkdiSuveroWallyJ.Skalij Actor Meryl Streep,  musicians Van Cliburn, Quincy Jones, Sonny Rollins and James Taylor and “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee are the household names among this year’s winners of the National Medal of Arts, a career-achievement award that President Obama will confer Wednesday in a ceremony at the White House.

Those known more to aficionados are Abstract Expressionist sculptor Mark di Suvero (pictured); Robert Brustein, the theater critic and producer who founded two leading New England stage companies, the Yale Repertory Theatre  and American Repertory Theatre; and Donald Hall, who was poet laureate in 2006-07. Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival in the rustic Berkshires of Western Massachusetts was honored as an arts institution.

Also announced were the National Humanities Medals, with authors Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates as the best-known names. Other honorees are poet/novelist/conservationist Wendell E. Berry;  publisher Daniel Aaron, founder of the Library of America; historians Bernard Bailyn and Gordon Wood; scholars Jacques Barzun of Columbia and Stanley Nider Katz of Princeton; literary critic Robert Gonzalez Echevarria;  and biographer and literary critic Arnold Rampersad.

Roth and Jones become double-dippers, the novelist having won the National Medal of Arts in 1998, while the composer-producer received the National Humanities Medal in 2000.

The National Endowment for the Arts manages the arts medals, while the National Endowment for the Humanities manages the humanities medals.

The White House said that Lee, Streep, Aaron and Barzun are not expected to attend the ceremony, which will be streamed live at 10:45 a.m. Pacific time at


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Jasper Johns is first studio artist in 34 years to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom


-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Mark di Suvero at L.A. Louver Gallery in 2008. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times