Three members of the Columbia University School of the Arts faculty were honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters this year. Writing Program Adjunct Maureen Howard was the recipient of the Katherine Anne Porter Award in Literature, Professor Emeritus of Film in the Faculty of the Arts Andrew Sarris received the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award in Literature and Visual Arts Professor Kara Walker was a 2012 inductee into the Academy.
The American Academy of Arts and Letters, chartered by Congress, was established in 1898 to foster, assist, and sustain an interest in literature, music, and the fine arts. Founding members include William Merritt Chase, Kenyon Cox, Daniel Chester French, Childe Hassam, Henry James, Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Vedder and Woodrow Wilson. Each year, the Academy gives close to $1 million in awards to artists, architects, writers and composers. The Academy presents exhibitions of art, architecture and manuscripts, and subsidizes readings and performances of new musicals.
The Katherine Anne Porter Award is named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980), who was elected to the Institute in 1941 and the Academy in 1966. In 2001 the trustees of the Porter estate endowed this biennial award of $20,000 to honor a prose writer whose achievements and dedication to the literary profession have been demonstrated. Previous recipients include Tim O'Brien and John Edgar Wideman.
The Morton Dauwen Zabel Award is a $10,000 biennial award given in rotation to a poet, writer of fiction, or critic, of progressive, original and experimental tendencies. Previous recipients include Writing Program faculty Ben Marcus, as well as Paul Violi and Edward Said, both of whom taught at Columbia.
Works by newly elected members and award winners will be on view May 17 - June 10 at the Academy galleries on Audubon Terrace, located on Broadway between 155th and 156th Street.
Maureen Howard (Adjunct Faculty, Writing Program) graduated from Smith College. She is the author of eight novels, among them Natural History, A Lover’s Almanac, Bridgeport Bus, and Expensive Habits. Her autobiography, Facts of Life, received the National Book Critics Award. She is the editor of Seven Women Writers, The Penguin Book of Contemporary American Essays, and the centennial edition of Mrs. Dalloway. She is the recipient of Guggenheim, Ingram Merrill, Bunting, National Endowment for the Arts, and Cullman Center at the New York Public Library fellowships. She received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her last novel, The Rags of Time, the fourth in a quartet, was published in 2009.
Andrew Sarris (Professor Emeritus, Film Program) received his BA and MA from Columbia. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Emerson College in Boston in 2008. He has worked extensively as a film critic and commentator in print and on radio. Among his books are The Films of Joseph Von Sternberg, Interviews with Film Directors, The American Cinema, Directors and Directions 1929-1968, Confessions of a Cultist: On the Cinema 1955-1969, The Primal Screen: Essays on Film and Related Subjects, The John Ford Movie Mystery and Politics and Cinema. His most recent book is Ain't Heard Nothing Yet: The American Talking Film 1927-1949, History and Memory.
Sarris has held academic positions at Yale, New York University, The School of Visual Arts and Juilliard. His awards include the Rockefeller Fellowship at Bellagio, 1991; Guggenheim Fellowship, 1969; Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 1982; Special Award from the L.A. Critics Circle, 1985; Maurice Bessy Award, Montreal, 1995; City of Sydney Salutes, Sydney, Australia, 1995; and runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, 2000. In 2001, Scarecrow Press published Citizen Sarris, American Film Critic, a collection of essays in Sarris' honor, edited by Emmanuel Levy and with a foreword by Martin Scorsese. Sarris is the cofounder of the National Society of Film Critics.
Kara Walker (Professor, Visual Arts Program) was born in Stockton, California, and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and received her M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. Walker has participated in numerous national and international exhibitions. Her recent solo museum shows include "Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love," which opened at the Walker Art Center in 2007 and traveled to ARC/Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles; and "Kara Walker at the Met: After the Deluge," which opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2006. She participated in the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2007, was the recipient of the Deutsche Bank Prize and was the American representative to the São Paulo Biennial.
Walker's work is included in numerous museums and public collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tate Gallery in London, the Centro Nazionale per le Arti Contemporanee in Rome, and Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt. She is a 2012 inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives and works in New York City.
Photo of Andrew Sarris © Robin Holland