Live Events and Filming Planned for May 17-22, 2021. Gala will be Broadcast on CBS on June 6, 9p.m. ET
Program Format to Include Live-Filmed Tributes and Virtual Moments Reflective of Unique Time In History
Stages Set Across Iconic Kennedy Center Campus To Serve as Backdrop for Performances and Tributes
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts today announced the selection of five Honorees who will receive the 43rd Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime artistic achievements. The 2020 Kennedy Center Honors, which traditionally is held in early December each year, was postponed until May 2021 due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recipients to be honored at the 43rd annual national celebration of the arts are: multi-disciplinary artist, choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen; singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez; country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks; violinist Midori; and actor Dick Van Dyke.
“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,” said Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein. “Debbie Allen moves seamlessly between artistic disciplines and is a cultural ambassador for all while having a monumental impact on dancers of color everywhere; folk icon Joan Baez breathed new life into the genre and powered rock music’s turn toward social and political consciousness; as one of the world’s best-selling music artists, Garth Brooks heightened country music’s profile like no other singer before him; with an international presence for over 35 years, violinist Midori combines graceful precision and expression for performances building connections between art and the human experience; with a charm that has made him one of the most cherished performers in show business history, Dick Van Dyke has brought us beloved film, stage, and TV characters adored by generations of fans, for more than seven decades.”
Reflective of this unique time in history, the Center’s entire campus will come alive with small, in-person events and re-envisioned virtual tributes. Featuring multiple events for physically-distant audiences in locations across the Kennedy Center’s campus including the Front Plaza of the building, the Grand Foyer in front of the John F. Kennedy bust, and the iconic Opera House stage, programs for each event will encompass both performances and speaking tributes for the Honorees. Virtual events will also be held throughout the week beginning May 17, and the viability of additional in-person events will be considered as COVID-19 safety protocols evolve over the upcoming months. Please note all is subject to change.
An Honoree medallion ceremony for the Honorees and a limited audience will be hosted by the Kennedy Center during this week in May 17–22.
“This past year has taught us many things including the need to be flexible and adaptable,” stated Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. “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. 2020 has also shined a bright light on the impact of how art and culture speaks to our collective human experience. It can meet us at any moment— and sustain us during the most challenging days. Each of the 43rd Kennedy Center Honorees and their work continues to speak to American culture and our national fortitude. We are thrilled to be able to fete these cultural icons in a time where the world and the nation needs the arts more than ever.”
Throughout its 42-year history, the annual Honors Gala has become the highlight of the Washington cultural and society calendar, and its national broadcast on CBS is a high point of the television season. Produced by Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment, the Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on the CBS Network for the 43rd consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special on June 6, 9 p.m. ET.
White Cherry Entertainment is well known for producing the perennial award-winning Tony Awards® for the last 18 consecutive years, and also for producing the Primetime Emmy Awards®, NFL Opening Kickoff and Super Bowl Halftime Shows, the Democratic National Convention, Presidential Inaugural Galas, and many other special events. To date, White Cherry Entertainment has won nine Emmy Awards®, including six for the Honors broadcast, while Kirshner and Weiss have individually received an additional six Emmy Awards®, eight Directors Guild Awards, a Peabody Award, and 40 Emmy® nominations. This is the sixth consecutive year White Cherry will produce the Kennedy Center Honors.
CBS is the Exclusive Sponsor of the Kennedy Center Honors.
Boeing is the Exclusive Underwriter of the Kennedy Center Honors Gala. Delta Air Lines is the Official Airline of the Kennedy Center Honors.
The Kennedy Center Honors Founding Producer is George Stevens, Jr.
The Honors recipients recognized for their contributions to American culture through the performing arts—whether in music, dance, theater, opera, motion pictures, or television—are confirmed by the Executive Committee of the Center’s Board of Trustees. The primary criterion in the selection process is excellence. The Honors are not designated by art form or category of artistic achievement; the selection process, over the years, has produced balance among the various arts and artistic disciplines.
The Honoree selection process includes solicitation of recommendations from the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees, the artistic community, and the general public. This year’s selected Honorees were chosen based on the recommendation of the Center’s Special Honors Advisory Committee, which is chaired by David Bohnett and includes David M. Rubenstein, Deborah F. Rutter, Michael Lombardo, Cappy McGarr, Daryl Roth, and Shonda Rhimes, along with past Honors recipients and distinguished artists Julie Andrews, Gloria Estefan, Herbie Hancock, Judith Jamison, and John Williams. These individuals play a
critical role in the evaluation and selection process, and the Kennedy Center is indebted to them for their involvement.
Kennedy Center Honors Ticket Information:
Due to the extremely limited venue capacity for this event, this year’s Honors tickets for our re-imagined in-person activities are by invitation only. Tickets for virtual experiences and events will go on sale February 1, 2021. Information regarding tickets to virtual events or about our ticketing policies for Honors in general can be obtained by contacting: Honors@kennedy-center.org.
“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.”
— Debbie Allen
“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.” — Joan Baez
“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.” — Garth Brooks
“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.”
“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.” — Dick Van Dyke