Audra McDonald honored with National Medal of Arts
President Barack Obama sings the praises of Fresno native Audra McDonald on Thursday morning, when he presents the Broadway star with the National Medal of Arts.
The White House ceremony is scheduled to start at 11:45 a.m. EST, and will be live-streamed at https://www.whitehouse.gov/live.
“An unforgettable performer, she has won six Tony awards,” McDonald’s citation states. “In musicals, concerts, operas, and the recording studio, her rich, soulful voice continues to take her audiences to new heights.”
The citation, which Obama will read, further praises the Bullard High School graduate for “lighting up Broadway as one of its brightest stars.”
Long-time fans including Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, who recalls first seeing McDonald perform in Fresno’s Good Company Players, will be part of the audience gathered in the historic East Room. They will see a red carpet-worthy array of other artists, from actor Morgan Freeman and comic writer-director Mel Brooks to Motown’s music icon Berry Gordy.
San Juan Bautista-based playwright Luis Valdez will be honored for “bringing Chicano culture to American drama.”
Described by the National Endowment for the Arts as “the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government,” the National Medal of Arts has been awarded since 1985, following passage of legislation to authorize the medals in 1984.
The National Council on the Arts, which is an advisory board for the NEA, reviews nominations made by the public and makes recommendations to the president, who has the final say. The National Council on the Arts’ members include San Joaquin Valley author and farmer David “Mas” Masumoto.