Joy Harjo. Photo by Karen Kuehn

Americans for the Arts’s excited to announce the 2022 honorees of the National Arts Awards. The prestigious recognition and accompanying awards ceremony has been on hold for the past two years in response to the pandemic and returns now with a revitalized focus on the arts as a catalyst for social impact. The awards will be presented on Monday, October 17 at Guastavino’s in New York City, as part of National Arts and Humanities Month.

The 2022 National Arts Awards honorees are:

Joy Harjo – Lifetime Achievement Award

Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned poet, performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and served three terms as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States. Harjo is the author of ten books of poetry, including “American Sunrise” (2019), which won a 2020 Oklahoma Book Award and “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings” (2015), which was shortlisted for the Griffin Prize and named a Notable Book of the Year by the American Library Association. In addition to poetry, she has published award-winning children’s books, three plays and two memoirs; “Crazy Brave,” awarded the PEN USA Literary Award and the American Book Award, and the highly acclaimed “Poet Warrior.”

Robert F. Smith – Philanthropy in the Arts Award

In 2019, Smith made headlines by announcing that he would cover the student loans of nearly 400 Morehouse College graduates in a commencement address. After his Morehouse pledge, Smith founded the Student Freedom Initiative to relieve the crushing burden of student debt for STEM students at all HBCUs. 

Smith also has been a strong advocate for what he has named the 2% solution—calling on corporations to commit 2% of their annual net income for the next decade to empower underrepresented communities. He also co-leads the Southern Communities Initiative, a catalytic program for racial equity across six southern communities representing half of the Black population in the U.S. 

The Gordon Parks Foundation – Arts Education Award

The Gordon Parks Foundation supports and produces artistic and educational initiatives that advance the legacy and vision of Gordon Parks for social justice. Recognized as the most significant African American photographer of the 20th century, as well as an influential writer, composer and filmmaker, Parks used the arts as a vehicle to further what he described as “the common search for a better life and a better world.” The Foundation was co-founded in 2006 by Parks with his longtime friend and editor at LIFE magazine, Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., to preserve his creative work and support the next generation of artists advancing social justice. 

For Freedoms (Co-Founders: Wyatt Gallery, Eric Gottesman, Hank Willis Thomas and Michelle Woo) – Marina Kellen French Outstanding Contributions to the Arts Award

For Freedoms is an artist collective that centers art and creativity as a catalyst for transformative connection and collective liberation. By wielding the power of art, the collective aims to deepen and expand our capacity to interrogate what is and imagine what could be. 

Leading up to the 2016 elections in the United States, For Freedoms asked how they could center artists’ voices in public discourse, broaden what participation in democracy looks like and initiate a larger conversation about the role of art in local, national, and global politics. What began as a one-off campaign has now evolved into an ongoing movement. For Freedoms has since produced artworks and run nationwide campaigns timed to significant political elections.

The National Arts Awards has garnered the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations across the country. Americans for the Arts extends special gratitude to the Arison Arts Foundation and the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation.  

Americans for the Arts is a national nonprofit organization that advances the arts and arts education advocacy in America. Based in Washington, D.C., it has a record of more than 60 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for everyone to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at

Hank Willis Thomas, Co-founder of For Freedoms. Photo by Jeff Vespa.