After snubbing Hispanic performers last year, the Kennedy Center announced today that the 2015 honorees for lifetime achievement in the arts include actress and dancer Rita Moreno.
The recipients of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Honors announced today are the rock and roll group the Eagles, songwriter Carole King, filmmaker George Lucas, conductor Seiji Ozawa, actress Cicely Tyson and Moreno.
But the inclusion of the Puerto Rican-born Moreno, 83, was a special gratification for Felix Sanchez, co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, who had agitated for the recognition of Latino performers.
“Finally, Rita Moreno is honored,” said Sanchez, who noted her many accomplishments. Moreno is an EGOT, he said, which stands for winning an Emmy for television, a Grammy for recording artists, an Oscar for film and a Tony for Broadway performance.
Latino groups sharply criticized the Kennedy Center for its selection process in 2012 when they pointed out that there had only been two Hispanics honored in the history of the Honors, which began in 1978. The performing arts center revamped its procedures, created a Latino advisory group and selected two Latinos in 2013 - musician Carlos Santana and opera singer Martina Arroyo.
But last year, once again there were no Hispanics honored. Sanchez thinks that the process has improved.
“This is a tribute to Deborah Rutter’s leadership,” he said of the Kennedy Center’s new president. “There was a lack of inclusivity. We have new producers and the definition of diversity has widened.”
Kennedy Center chairman David M. Rubenstein saluted the winners. “The Kennedy Center Honors recognizes the extraordinary and unparalleled talents of individuals whose impact and genius have left an indelible mark on civilization,” he said. “Quite simply, our Honorees represent the voices, soundtracks, and stories of our personal lives and memories.”
“The music of the Eagles has endured as the quintessential American rock and roll sound for generations; Carole King’s heartfelt lyrics and tunes are woven throughout the tapestry of American music; George Lucas’ films have enriched our world with stories of epic adventure; Rita Moreno’s iconic spitfire roles are embedded in the heart of American culture; Seiji Ozawa’s artistic leadership as a conductor has set a new standard for orchestras around the world; and Cicely Tyson’s range of strong female roles on stage and screen have broken boundaries for women of color,” he said.
Rutter said, “When I look at this year’s outstanding slate of Honorees, I am struck by a powerful common theme— artists as history-makers, artists who defy both convention and category.”
A gala concert celebrating the Honorees will be held at the Kennedy Center Dec. 6 with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama and will be broadcast later in the month.