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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BAM Receives National Medal of Arts!

President Barack Obama presents the National Medal of Arts to Karen Brooks Hopkins, BAM president, on behalf of BAM in a White House ceremony on July 28, 2014. Photo by Jocelyn Augustino.
We here at BAM like to think of ourselves as well-seasoned cultural citizens, routinely interacting with some of the world's greatest artists—often bold-faced names—as well as national public figures.

But we were collectively truly humbled and honored as we gathered in BAM Rose Cinemas to watch a livestream of BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins accepting a 2013 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama at the White House yesterday. (Watch the ceremony here.)

BAM was the sole organization to receive the arts award this year, and thus the only recipient to take home the medal in a handsome box. Individuals had their medals personally draped around their necks by President Obama, and included several BAM artists: choreographer Bill T. Jones, filmmaker Albert Maysles, and filmmaker Stanley Nelson (who received a National Humanities Medal). Other arts recipients included writer Maxine Hong Kingston and musician Linda Ronstadt, on whom President Obama confessed to having a crush back in the day.

The official citation (full brief here) reads:
Brooklyn Academy of Music for innovative contributions to the performing and visual arts. For over 150 years, BAM has showcased the works of both established visionaries and emerging artists who take risks and push boundaries.
As the citation was read, President Obama confided to Karen Hopkins that he saw The Gospel of Colonus at BAM in 1983. She invited him to return in the near future, perhaps setting the stage for another historical moment at BAM.

—Susan Yung

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