The Kennedy Center Honors are coming back, and the star-studded recipients were announced Wednesday.
The 43rd annual ceremony will honor actor Dick Van Dyke, country star Garth Brooks, singer-songwriter Joan Baez, dancer and actress Debbie Allen, and acclaimed violinist Midori.
“The Kennedy Center Honors serves as a moment to celebrate the remarkable artists who have spent their lives elevating the cultural history of our nation and world,” Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein said in a statement Wednesday.
What makes each artist so deserving?
“Allen moves seamlessly between artistic disciplines … [Baez] powered rock music’s turn toward social and political consciousness … Brooks heightened country music’s profile like no other singer … violinist Midori combines graceful precision and expression, [and] Van Dyke has brought us beloved film, stage, and TV characters adored by generations.”
The event is traditionally held in early December each year, but the 2020 event was postponed until May 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
This year will feature small, in-person events for socially distanced audiences around the Kennedy Center campus, including the Front Plaza, Grand Foyer and Opera House.
Virtual events will also be held throughout the week of May 17.
“This past year has taught us many things, including the need to be flexible and adaptable,” Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said. “They say necessity is the mother of all invention. The unusual circumstances inspired and opened up new ways for us to present a deeper experience, and hopefully understanding, of the art and lifetime work of our Honorees.”
Due to limited capacity, this year’s Honors tickets are by invitation only.
Tickets for virtual experiences and events will go on sale Feb. 1.
The event will air on CBS as a two-hour primetime special on June 6 at 9 p.m.
Here are reactions from each of this year’s honorees:
“I am truly humbled to be named a Kennedy Center Honoree 2020. This is so much more than our nation’s Highest Artistic Award, it is a measure of how my footprint has resonated as a path of light over the years and in this time of tremendous uncertainty, fear, and search for hope. This glorious achievement I share with my family, mentors, and students who have inspired and pushed me all the way. I look forward to being part of a fresh start for America and reminding the world how essential the Performing Arts are in our lives. Much Gratitude.”
“It has been my life’s joy to make art. It’s also been my life’s joy to make, as the late Congressman John Lewis called it, ‘good trouble.’ What luck to have been born with the ability to do both; each one giving strength and credibility to the other. I am indebted to many for a privileged life here. I’ve tried to share my good fortune with others anywhere and everywhere in the world. Sometimes there have been risks, but they are only a part of the meaning of it all. I extend my deepest thanks to the Kennedy Center for recognizing me, my art, and the good trouble I’ve made.”
“President John F. Kennedy was a childhood hero of mine, and he has continued to be through every stage of my life. He knew that a nation is defined by its culture and a culture is defined by its arts. I have watched many of my heroes sit in that booth during their ceremony, I have even had the joyous honor of singing for some of them on their special night. The hope is to have contributed to humanity like my heroes have, to inspire us to be the most we can be as individuals, global citizens, and a part of human history. But most of all, to simply laugh, cry, love, and dream through music…I have been blessed to do just that as a fan and as an artist.”
“Artists have a singular responsibility, through our work and deeds, to echo and mirror our society and serve its needs. As a new chapter of life is about to begin for all of us, I especially feel the current moment’s necessities and opportunities to explore a spring of new and preserved energies and discoveries, to play my part in seeking various avenues and forms of creativity and recovery. From an early age, I have been gifted with extraordinary experiences. I consider them to be my treasure and fortune that I might now draw upon. I wish to accomplish much going forward. My plans are to be making music again, in both pioneering and traditional ways, to sing out and to stir what lies within us, to describe mysteries, of the heart and of the mind. So, in the spirit of peace and connectivity through this country and the world, I am thrilled to be a recipient of one of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors, as we, together, reach toward renewed expression of the dreams and hopes that unify us all.”
Dick Van Dyke
“Many years ago, I was the host of a similar event held, as I recall, in private with the Kennedy family. I saw the care with which the recipient was chosen from an impressive list of nominees. Since the creation of the Kennedy Center Honors, just over 200 have been honored with equal care. Being included in that small, illustrious group, is the thrill of my life.”