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Edward Albee
The view from the balcony at the 2011 American Academy of Arts and Letters ceremonial: Edward Albee is at the podium, receiving applause from Rocco Landesman, left, and Garrison Keillor, right


May 20, 2011

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The American Academy of Arts and Letters held its annual ceremonial on Wednesday afternoon, May 18, 2011, at the academy’s gorgeous headquarters at Audubon Terrace at 155th Street and Broadway [image: Rocco Landesman]. More than 120 academy members and guests were seated on bleachers on the stage to witness a rather lengthy succession of speeches and awards.

Highlights included “The Bushfield Address” by National Endowment for the Arts head Rocco Landesman, titled “The Play’s the Thing,” and presentations of the award for drama by Tony Kushner (“did I get off on the wrong floor?”) and the Rome fellowships in literature by Garrison Keillor (verbally restrained, though dressed in matching red socks and tie).

A baker’s dozen of new members were inducted, including, in the art field, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Malcolm Morley, Robert A.M. Stern and James Turrell; William Kentridge was made a foreign honorary member. The irrepressible Morley was one of the few awardees to acknowledge the occasion to the audience, showing off his certificate with a triumphant gesture.

The academy hands out a wealth of awards; winners in art -- presented by Joel Shapiro -- included John Bradford, Jonathan Lasker, Ron Nagle, Michelle Segre and Arlene Shechet. Special awards in art went to Sal Sirugo for his miniature abstract paintings and Amy Bennett for her miniature superrealist paintings.

Gold medals were presented for painting to Cy Twombly, who was not able to appear to accept the award himself, and for belles letters and criticism to theater critic Eric Bentley. Bentley’s award was presented by Edward Albee, one of the few who did not use notes in his remarks.

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Ron Nagle, Paul Resika and John Bradford
On stage at the 2011 American Academy of Arts and Letters ceremonial, with, from upper right, Ron Nagle, Paul Resika and John Bradford, sitting behind Wolf Kahn and Janet Malcolm