The medals were presented by President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush in an Oval Office ceremony to Tharp as well as author Ray Bradbury, opera composer Carlisle Floyd, sculptor Frederick Hart, poet Anthony Hecht, wildlife artist John Ruthven, architectural historian and educator Vincent Scully and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
"These eight individuals have significantly enriched the cultural life of our nation through their creativity, teaching, and beneficent work," stated National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia, "...these artists and this foundation have given us new ways of understanding and delighting in the world.”
The Medal of Arts were established by Congress in 1984 and is awarded by the President to those who have made extraordinary contributions to the creation, growth, and support of the arts in the United States. The NEA gathers nominations annually from individuals and organizations across the country which are then reviewed by The National Council on the Arts, who provide recommendations to the President who, in turn, selects the recipients.
Tharp has created dances for the American Ballet Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet, the New York City Ballet and the Martha Graham Dance Company among others. Her work has been seen on film ("Hair," "White Nights" and "Amadeus"), television (Emmy Award winner for "Great Performances: Dance in America") and theatre (Movin' Out, Singin' in the Rain).
The bookless Movin' Out, currently residing at Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre and touring the nation, uses Billy Joel's song lyrics and Tharp's choreography to tell the story of five friends and lovers across three decades through love, war and loss. There is no dialogue and all songs are performed by the pianist-singer, who sings non-stop and heads an on-stage band during the show. Following a tryout at Chicago's Shubert Theatre, the show began previews on Broadway Sept. 30, 2002 and opened Oct. 24, 2002. The show took home the Tony Awards for Best Choreography (Tharp) and Orchestrations (Joel and Stuart Malina).
Previous recipients of the award include Tommy Tune, Uta Hagen, Al Hirschfeld, Mike Nichols, Horton Foote, Harold Prince, Barbra Streisand, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Gwen Verdon, Angela Lansbury, Jason Robards, Edward Albee, Stephen Sondheim, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Julie Harris, Arthur Miller, Lloyd Richards, James Earl Jones, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Helen Hayes and Jerome Robbins.
For more information on the National Medal of Arts, visit www.arts.gov.