INTERLOCHEN, Mich. - Interlochen Center for the Arts has received the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence. The award was presented by President Bush to ten individuals and organizations in a White House ceremony on November 9. Jeffrey Kimpton, President of the nonprofit Interlochen Center for the Arts, traveled to Washington DC to receive the award.
"It is such an honor to be recognized at this level," said Kimpton. "As a community of artists that spans eight decades and stretches around the globe this award belongs to everyone who has ever been a part of the Interlochen experience."
"These individuals and organizations have all made enduring contributions to the artistic life of our nation," said National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia. "The efforts of Interlochen have enriched our national culture."
Kimpton, who is also a leading advocate for arts education, was joined in the Oval Office by Gerald Fischer, President of the Board of Trustees for Interlochen Center for the Arts, and Tyler Hodges, a 2006 graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Scholar in the Arts award. Hodges was honored by President Bush just six months ago for his artistic accomplishments as a vocalist and his academic record.
"I was pleased that Tyler could join us for this special occasion," explained Kimpton, "because he is an artist-scholar that exemplifies Interlochen. When I look around our campus, I see many young artists like Tyler who will create a very bright future for the arts, just as other Interlochen alumni are bringing vitality to the arts today." Interlochen alumni represent a roster of distinguished luminaries in the arts including ten percent of the musicians in the nation’s major orchestras and including such prominent artists as Lorin Maazel, the conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Josh Groban, Felicity Huffman and Liz Lerman. Interlochen alumni also continue to make important artistic contributions in the fields of visual arts, literature and film.
Kimpton noted that many Interlochen alumni choose careers other than the arts, but they still share in the impact made by the organization. "They still make the arts part of their lives - and by doing so, they are among the strongest supporters of local arts programming around the country. That is an equally important part of our legacy."
Established by Congress in 1984, the National Medal of Arts is awarded to individuals or groups who, in the President's judgment, are deserving of special recognition for outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States. Each year, the National Endowment for the Arts receives nominations for the award from across the country. The National Council on the Arts, the Endowment's advisory body, reviews the nominations and provides recommendations to the President, who selects the recipients. The process is secret, and Interlochen was not aware that it was under consideration.
In announcing the selection, the National Endowment for the Arts recognized Interlochen both for the extraordinary contributions the organization has made over its 79-year history and for the dynamic initiatives of the past few years that are keeping Interlochen on the cutting edge of arts education today and into the future.
Founded in 1927 as the National High School Orchestra Camp, the institution soon became known simply as "Interlochen" and quickly increased in scope to include other arts disciplines and programs. From an unlikely location in the woods of northern Michigan emerged a growing cultural and arts community with national influence. Today Interlochen also encompasses the country’s first boarding high school in the arts, a public radio network, a year-round arts festival, an elementary and middle school, and an expanding adult education program. Nearly 90,000 artists have learned and been inspired at Interlochen and hundreds of thousands more are engaged annually.
"It is not an overstatement," said Kimpton, "to say that Interlochen has played a key role in the development of high quality music and art programs in public schools throughout the entire country. In 1928, Interlochen was a pioneer in the area of arts education. Today, the cross-pollination of arts that can only be found here continues to attract some of the most talented and dynamic artists from around the country. After eighty years, we are still on the leading edge of arts education."
Interlochen Center for the Arts continues to innovate to meet the changing needs of the arts community. In 2005, Interlochen established an interdisciplinary high school film program, which draws on the wide range of talent that already exists at Interlochen; theatre students appear in the films; writing students work on screenplays; music students create original scores and visual artists work on the sets. In October, the new film program moved into the new Aaron and Helen L. DeRoy Center for Film studies, a 26,000 square foot facility, which incorporates living space, classrooms, editing rooms and a screening room. It is the only building of its kind in the country, dedicated to teaching the art of film to high school students.
In the last three years, Interlochen has also expanded its offerings for adult education programs. "We are most well-known for inspiring young artists," said Kimpton, "but adults continue to seek high quality creative opportunities and need the arts just as much as our youth. Our College of Creative Arts gives adults of all ages many opportunities to fine-tune their skills in an arts discipline - or to explore an entirely new one." Programs have included guitar, New Horizons band, adult band camp, chamber music, early music, painting, photography and writing seminars. Other programs are continually being added.
Very few arts education organizations have ever been recognized with the National Medal of Arts. Kimpton expressed his hopes that the award will advance opportunities for arts education for everyone. "At this place where art lives so vibrantly, we bring art into the lives of so many people. As we move forward, Interlochen will carry on its tradition of being a leader in the arts by continuing to innovate and promote the availability of arts programs for everyone - at Interlochen and everywhere."