Ava DuVernay, Serena and Venus Williams And More Honored By Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery
Laura Metzler Photography

Ava DuVernay, Clive Davis, Marian Wright Edelman, Serena and Venus Williams are among those being honored by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery this year. They will be presented with the Portrait of a Nation Award and their portraits will be hung in the prominent institution. 

The award-winning filmmaker and founder of ARRAY, activist for children’s rights, musical legend, and founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund, athletes and entrepreneurs will be honored alongside Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., who gained national notoriety during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and respected culinary innovator José Andrés.

Marian Wright Edelman

“The Portrait of a Nation Award is an expression of gratitude for the leaders in our country who have made a difference and continue to advocate for a better future,” said Director of the National Portrait Gallery Kim Sajet in a statement to ESSENCE. 

A gala will be held where the portraits will be unveiled for the first time at the Gallery in Washington, D.C. Chairs of the event include Kings of Napa creator Janine Sherman Barrois and Lyndon J. Barrois. Proceeds from the event will “support the Portrait Gallery’s endowment for exhibitions, collections, commissions and education programs.” 

Previous Portrait of a Nation Award recipients include Henry “Hank” Aaron, Aretha Franklin, Maya Lin, David D. Ho, M.D., Bill T. Jones, Spike Lee, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Each of their portraits is housed in the gallery.

The official portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama live at the National Portrait Gallery as well.

“These honorees are innovators in their respective disciplines and advocates for social causes who use their voices to care for and lift up others. The Portrait of a Nation Award reminds us that history is living and the choices people make have an impact on the nation’s legacy. We invite everyone to partake in recognizing these extraordinary individuals when their portraits go on view as part of the museum’s ‘Recent Acquisitions’ exhibition in November.”

Learn more about the National Portrait Gallery here.


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