Six Women Inducted Into the American Academy of Arts and Letters

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1904 as a highly selective group of 50 members within a larger organization called the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Over the years the two groups functioned separately with different memberships, budgets, and boards of directors. In 1993 the two groups finally agreed to form a single group of 250 members under the name of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Members are chosen from the fields of literature, music, and the fine arts. Members must be native or naturalized citizens of the United States. They are elected for life and pay no dues. New members are elected only upon the death of other members.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters recently inducted 12 individuals into the 250-member honorary society. Of the 12 new members, six are women and most have academic ties.

Nicole Eisenman, Jenny Holzer and Maxine Hong Kingston
Eisenman photo © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (used with permission)
and Kingston photo © David Shankbone

Nicole Eisenman is a contemporary artist known mostly for her oil paintings. She was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2015. Eisenman was born in France but grew up in Scarsdale, New York. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. From 2003 to 2009, Eisenman taught at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

Jenny Holzer is a public artist concentrating on large billboards, electronic displays, and projects on public surfaces. Examples of her work can be seen here. A native of Gallipolis. Ohio, she earned a bachelor of fine arts degree at Ohio University. She also studied at the University of Chicago and the Rhode island School of Design.

Maxine Hong Kingston is a professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a native of Stockton, California, and the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Professor Kingston graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1962. She is the author of three novels and several works of nonfiction. Her book China Men (Alfred A. Knopf, 1980) won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 1981.

Lynn Nottage, Jayne Anne Phillips and Sarah Sze
Nottage photo © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (used with permission)
and Phillips photo © Elena Seibert

Lynn Nottage, a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and a screenwriter, is an associate professor in the theatre department at the Columbia School of the Arts. Nottage is the co-founder of the production company, Market Road Films, which has produced projects for HBO and Showtime as well as independent productions. She is a winner of a MacArthur “genius award.” Nottage is a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama.

Jayne Anne Phillips is a novelist and short story writer. She is the Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of English at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. She is the author of several short story collections and novels including Machine Dreams (E.P Dutton, 1984) and Lark and Termite (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009). Professor Phillips is a graduate of West Virginia University and the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa.

Sarah Sze is a professor of visual arts at Columbia University in New York City. A native of Boston, Professor Sze holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from Yale University and a master of fine arts degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 2016, Professor Sze completed a permanent commission for the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority’s 96th Street Second Avenue Subway Station.

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