The Kennedy Center Honors’ 43rd class will include actress and choreographer Debbie Allen, singer-songwriters Joan Baez and Garth Brooks, violinist Midori and actor Dick Van Dyke.
Kennedy Center chairman David M. Rubenstein said in a statement Wednesday that the ceremony “serves as a moment to celebrate the remarkable artists who have spent their lives elevating the cultural history of our nation and world.”
Rubenstein explained the Kennedy Center’s picks this year, noting, “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.”
This year’s event will be a mix of filmed tributes and virtual moments. Virtual events will begin the week of May 17, and some limited in-person speaking tributes at the Kennedy Center campus will also be held. During the week of May 17-22, a medallion presentation ceremony will be held for a limited audience at the center.
The weeklong ceremony will be edited into a two-hour broadcast to air Sunday, June 6, at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.
The Kennedy Center Honors were created in 1978 to recognize artists who have spent their lives contributing to American culture. The proceedings are typically held in late December, but this year’s event was postponed until May 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Allen told the Los Angeles Times: “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.”
Baez said in response to her award: “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.”