Twenty-nine-year-old music performance program “Austin City Limits” is to be presented today (Nov. 12) with the National Medal of Arts by President Bush and the National Endowment for the Arts in a ceremony at the White House. “Austin City Limits” is the first TV show to receive the medal — the highest honor given to artists and arts patrons by the U.S. government — since the award’s inception in 1984.
For the past 30 years, the program — a production of KLRU-TV Austin, Texas — has showcased some of America’s greatest roots, bluegrass, country, rock, Latin, blues and Americana artists, from Ray Charles and Stevie Ray Vaughan to Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton to Norah Jones, Whiskeytown and Beck.
Since debuting with a program featuring Willie Nelson, more than 400 episodes of “Austin City Limits” have aired.
Last year, the show spawned an annual, multi-day music festival in Austin. This year’s event drew more than 155,000 people and featured the likes of Jack Johnson, R.E.M., Ben Harper, the Jayhawks, Polyphonic Spree, Al Green and Liz Phair.
Other recipients of National Medal of Arts this year include blues icon Buddy Guy, country star George Strait, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, symphony orchestra conductor Leonard Slatkin, actor/director/writer/producer Ron Howard, author Beverly Cleary, arts educator Rafe Esquith, dancer/company director/educator Suzanne Farrell and dancer/actor/choreographer/director Tommy Tune.