WASHINGTON — Saying that "no one realizes the importance of freedom more than artists," President Reagan on Tuesday presented seven internationally known artists and five longtime patrons the first National Medal of Arts.
Artists who were honored included composer Elliott Carter, writer Ralph (Waldo) Ellison, actor Jose Vicente Ferrer, dancer/choreographer Martha Graham, sculptor Louise Nevelson, painter Georgia O'Keeffe and soprano Leontyne Price.
The patrons honored were Hallmark Cards Inc., Lincoln Kirstein, Paul Mellon, Alice Tully and Mrs. Norman Chandler of Los Angeles, who was represented at the White House luncheon ceremony by her daughter, Camilla Chandler Frost.
Aiding in the awards presentation, Nancy Reagan referred to Mrs. Chandler as "a great patron and civic leader for the arts in Los Angeles.
"She conceived and organized the funding of the Los Angeles Music Center, which in 1964 opened a Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The center stimulated a flowering of the performing arts throughout Los Angeles County."
Mrs. Frost gave a playful curtsy to the Reagans as she received the award on behalf of her mother, the wife of the late publisher of the Los Angeles Times.
The night before the luncheon, the group was feted at the State Department's elegant diplomatic reception rooms at a party hosted by Daniel J. Terra, ambassador-at-large for cultural affairs. Following the luncheon, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) made sure the Democrats got in their official congratulations at a reception at the Botanical Gardens.
The highlight of the activities was clearly the White House luncheon, where more than 100 guests sat at brightly decorated round tables in the State Dining Room.
"I'm certainly honored to be here representing my mother," Mrs. Frost said. "It's an honor that is so deserved, and I wish she could be here.
"She is delighted (by the award). The Music Center means so much in her life."
The National Medal of Arts, modeled roughly after the National Medal of Science, was first proposed by Reagan in May, 1983 during a White House luncheon with other artists and patrons. Congress passed legislation creating the awards in January, 1984.
The sterling silver, four-inch medal was designed by Venice, Calif., resident Robert Graham, the sculptor who fashioned the Olympic Gateway statue of headless athletes.