Anna Deavere Smith, Mayor Nutter Honored by Americans for the Arts

By Purnell T. Cropper | January 28, 2011

“At the 79th annual winter meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), awards for artists and public officials were presented by USCM in partnership with Americans for the Arts. These awards have presented each year since 1997. Theatre artist Anna Deavere Smith was presented with the National Artist Advocate Award, and jazz great Herbie Hancock received the Legendary Artist Award,” writes Gary Steuer on the blog Arts, Culture and Creative Economy: Periodic musings on arts, culture and creative economy issues from the Chief Cultural Officer of the City of Philadelphia. “Anna Deavere Smith has been an extraordinary advocate for the arts, showing how the arts are integral to creating better American communities and citizens, and Mr. Hancock continues to inspire artists with his innovative stylings. Mayors Brainard and Nutter and Governor Richardson have all demonstrated immense dedication to the development of arts programming within their respective communities and states,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “Their extraordinary leadership and commitment to cultural initiatives and advancement of the arts showcases the key role the arts play in spurring economic growth while simultaneously enhancing quality of life.” “In addition to her renowned work as an actress, playwright, teacher and author, Anna Deavere Smith established the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at Harvard University and now at New York University,” says the Americans for the Arts news release. “Its mission is to support the development of art that illuminates social conditions; to deepen the capacity of artists to communicate with their audiences; and to build an international community in which artists, students, activists and scholars could work together to develop the artist as a voice in society. In addition, she serves on the boards of the Aspen Institute and the Museum of Modern Art, and currently serves as the inaugural Artist in Resident at the Center for American Progress in Washington D.C. In October 2010, Ms. Smith delivered the keynote address—a penetratingly innovative performance on what she called “winner-take-all society”—before the nation’s largest philanthropic foundations gathered at the Independent Sector Conference to discuss American Democracy at a Crossroads.” “I am so honored to receive the 2011 National Artist Advocate Award,” said Deavere Smith. “In my work I try to give voice to people whose lives tell the story of the human condition and let them advocate for the most humane society we can achieve.” Steuer reports that Mayor Michael Nutter “got to spend some time with Herbie Hancock and Anna Deavere Smith, two extraordinary artists who were also being honored…. And Anna Deavere Smith also had some Philadelphia connections. She is bringing her newest show Let Me Down Easy to Philadelphia Theatre Company in a couple of months, and performed excerpts of it at an Arts and Public Health conference at Penn last year (I was there for that talk, and strongly urge my ‘Philly Phriends’ to catch her show at PTC!). She also graduated from what is now Arcadia University, adding a little extra Philly-area roots (though she hails from Baltimore).” Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Michael Klein also notes: “Beaver College (now Arcadia University) alumna Anna Deavere Smith (Mrs. Akalitus on Nurse Jackie, National Security Adviser Nancy McNally on The West Wing) will be here March 18 for her one-woman show Let Me Down Easy, part of the Philadelphia Theatre Company’s season at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre.” Read his column.