*(CNN) — Songstress Gladys Knight, actress Mindy Kaling, and designer Vera Wang were among a group of creatives, writers, advocates and scholars honored at the White House on Tuesday with the 2021 National Humanities Medals and the National Medal of Arts, marking the first time President Joe Biden has held a ceremony for the awards since taking office.
“We’re a nation, a great nation, in large part because of the power of the arts and humanities. That’s stamped into the DNA of America,” Biden said during the ceremony in the East Room. “Today … (we) continue the legacy of awarding two of our nation’s highest honors to 23 extraordinary Americans.”
The National Medal of the Arts is the highest American award given to artists, art patrons, and groups that have advanced arts in the United States. This year, Biden honored 12 artists and groups, including actor and comedian Julia Louis-Dreyfus and legendary performer Bruce Springsteen.
Other recipients included “Feliz Navidad” songwriter and singer Jose Feliciano, philanthropist Fred Eychaner, and cultural grant maker Joan Shigekawa, as well as artists Judith Francisca Baca and Antonio Martorell-Cardona. As institutions, the Billie Holiday Theatre and the International Association of Blacks in Dance received the medal.
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