07 Mar Sculptor Mark di Suvero honored by President Obama at White House with National Medal of Arts

President Barack Obama presented the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medals to 19 people and one organization, many of them household names, one in particular in Grand Rapids.

Sculptor Mark di Suvero, whose sculpture can be found in downtown Grand Rapids as well as at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, was honored today along with such notable names as actress Meryl Streep, singer-songwriter James Taylor, jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins, classical pianist Van Cliburn, music producer Quincy Jones, and novelists Harper Lee and Joyce Carol Oates.

The Nation Medals of Arts and Humanities are the nation’s highest honor given by the government for artists and culture figures. All but Streep and Lee were present for the ceremonies in the East Room of the White House.

Di Suvero’s “Motu Viget,” known popularly as the “Di Suvero Swing,” is located downtown on the lawn of the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building, where thousands of youngster ride on it during Grand Rapids’ annual Festival of Arts.

Obama praised the New York City-based sculptor as one of the nation’s leading sculptors of Abstract Expressionism.

“Exhibited throughout the world, Mr. di Suvero’s exemplary sculptures depict a strong political and social vision, demonstrating the power of the arts to improve our world,” Obama said.

Joseph Becherer, chief curator and vice president for collections and exhibitions at Meijer Gardens, said Di Suvero is “very deserving” of the honor.

“His relationship with Grand Rapids goes back a long way,” Becherer said. “He was a major part of the ‘Sculpture off the Pedestal’ exhibition in the 1970s.”

The piece Di Suvero brought to Grand Rapids for that show, “Are Years What? (for Marianne Moore)”, now is owned by the Smithsonian Institute’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and is located on the Mall in Washington D.C.

Meijer Gardens has two pieces by Di Suvero in its collection, “Scarlatti” and “For Ben Webster,” created in 2000 and 2001 respectively.

Di Suvero, who celebrates his 78th birthday this year, remains active in the arts.
“He’s still got lots of energy and lots of enthusiasm, and he’s still making a lot of work,” Becherer said.

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