The American Academy of Arts and Letters, a prestigious arts “honor society” founded in 1989, has inducted Bob Dylan. The Academy consists of 250 artists, composers, architects, musicians, and writers who are elected for life. When a member dies, a new member is nominated to replace him or her. The nominee is then voted on by the Academy members. This is the first time that a rock/pop musician has been inducted; previous musicians came largely from the classical world. Dylan joins current members such as Meryl Streep, Yo-Yo Ma, Woody Allen, Ornette Coleman, George Crumb, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Garrison Keillor, I.M. Pei, Martin Scorsese, and many other luminaries of the fine arts.
Deceased members include Mark Twain, Robert Frost, William Faulkner, John Cage, Truman Capote, Georgia O’Keeffe, Aaron Copland, Winston Churchill, E E Cummings, Buckminster Fuller, Dizzy Gillespie, Allen Ginsberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Sinclair Lewis, Anais Nin, John Steinbeck, Igor Stravinsky, John Updike, Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut, Woodrow Wilson, Frank Lloyd Wright, and a long list of major art figures.
The Academy’s goal is to encourage interest in literature, music, and the fine arts through awards and prizes, exhibits, funding for performances, and purchases of art for donation to museums. The Academy makes approximately 50 awards per year totaling around $1 million.