Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
New Orleans music legend Allen Toussaint and Louisiana writer Ernest Gaines will be among the recipients of the National Medal of Arts - the highest award given to artists by the U.S. government - to be presented by President Obama at the White House next week.
The White House announced the recipients on Wednesday. The award ceremony will be held July 10 in the East Room of the White House.
Toussaint, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, will be honored for his contributions as a composer, producer, and performer who helped shape the New Orleans sound in the 1950s and 1960s and continues to work as a prolific rhythm and blues and jazz artist-composer.
“Born and raised in New Orleans, Mr. Toussaint has built a legendary career alongside America’s finest musicians, sustaining his city’s rich tradition of rhythm and blues and lifting it to the national stage,” The White House said in its citation.
Gaines, a native of Pointe Coupee Parish, will be honored for his contributions as an author and teacher, including his "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" and his 1993 work, "A Lesson Before Dying."
“Drawing deeply from his childhood in the rural South, his works have shed new light on the African-American experience and given voice to those who have endured injustice,” the White House citation reads.
Other recipients to be honored include "Star Wars" director George Lucas, music legend Herb Alpert, comedienne-director-writer Elaine May, and playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner.
The awards are coordinated by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The medal is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the U.S. government, awarded by the President to individuals or groups who are "deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States."