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Spielberg Among Arts Honorees

September 29, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Hollywood filmmaker Steven Spielberg, American Indian ballet dancer Maria Tallchief and folk singer Odetta were among the musicians, writers and arts impresarios honored Wednesday as American cultural treasures.

President Clinton presented the national arts and humanities medals to 18 people and one performing arts school. The White House selects the annual winners of the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal.

The medals go to individuals or institutions supporting the growth and availability of the arts and humanities to the general public.

Clinton read a short tribute to each winner during the ceremony at Constitution Hall near the White House, saying they ``defined in their own unique ways a part of who we are as a people and what we’re about as a nation as we enter a new century and a new millennium.″

Odetta’s 50 years of performing American folk and gospel reminds ``us all that songs have the power to change the heart and change the world,″ Clinton said.

Clinton said ``A Prairie Home Companion,″ the public radio show created by medalist Garrison Keillor, ``is always blaring in the White House.″

``With imagination, wit and also with a steel trap mind and deep conviction, Garrison Keillor has brought us together,″ Clinton said. The old-fashioned humor and variety show about life in a fictitious small town in Minnesota ``constantly reminds us how we’re all connected and how it ought to keep us a little humble,″ Clinton said.

Tallchief helped put an American stamp on classical ballet, until recent decades a primarily European discipline, Clinton said.

``How appropriate that a Native American woman would do that,″ he said.

The 1999 winners of the National Medal of the Arts are:

_Arts patron Irene Diamond, who gave more than $73 million to the arts through foundations and personal gifts.

_Aretha Franklin, the ``Queen of Soul″ who has won 17 Grammys.

_Designer and architect Michael Graves, who created some of century’s most admired structures, including the Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati.

_Odetta, the ``Queen of American Folk Music,″ who created a groundbreaking sound with her voice and guitar.

_The Juilliard School of performing arts in New York, which includes among its alumni comedian-actor Robin Williams, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist and composer Itzhak Perlman.

_Writer and director Norman Lear, who created some of the century’s most popular television social comedies, including ``All in the Family,″ ``Good Times″ and ``The Jeffersons.″

_Actress and producer Rosetta LeNoire, who boasts a more than 60-year career that includes numerous movies, Broadway productions and TV shows, including ``Family Matters″ and ``Amen.″

_Arts administrator Harvey Lichtenstein, who was president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music for 32 years and established it as a leading arts center.

_Singer Lydia Mendoza, who brought Mexican-American music to the public’s attention and became famous in Latin America with her signature song, ``Mal Hombre.″

_Sculptor George Segal, who made a career of sculpting environments, including a life-sized bread line at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington.

_Tallchief, who was the New York City Ballet’s longtime prima ballerina.

The 1999 winners of the National Humanities Medals are:

_Librarian Patricia M. Battin, who organized a national campaign to save millions of decaying books by putting their content on microfilm.

_Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and journalist Taylor Branch, whose books, including ``Parting the Waters: America in the King Years,″ made him an authority on the civil rights movement.

_New South scholar Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, who founded the Southern Oral History Project at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

_Keillor, best-selling author and radio host of ``A Prairie Home Companion.″

_Television anchor and editor Jim Lehrer, host of a public television news program named for him.

_Political philosopher and author John Rawls, renowned for his views on justice, basic rights and equal opportunity.

_Academy Award-winning filmmaker Spielberg.

_Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson whose plays, including ``The Piano Lesson″ and ``Fences,″ explore the black experience in America.

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