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July 31, 2023

Actress, Playwright, and Professor Anna Deavere Smith to Present 2024 A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts

Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith
Photo by Jeff Riedel

Washington, DC—The Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art (the Center) announced today that Anna Deavere Smith, award-winning actress, playwright, author, and professor at New York University, will give the 73rd A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts in spring 2024.

Recognized for exploring current events through theater, Smith engages multiple perspectives and her own presence to enrich public conversations about race, class, and social inequality. She has been credited with creating a new form of theater. Popularly known for roles in The West Wing and Nurse Jackie, Smith will present a four-part lecture series, Chasing That Which Is Me and That Which Is Not Me, in the National Gallery’s East Building Auditorium every Sunday from April 28 to May 19, 2024. Conceived as a sequel to her 2015 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, titled “That Which Is Not Me,” Smith will continue to explore performance as a way of knowing.

“We are thrilled to welcome Anna Deavere Smith as our next Mellon Lecturer,” said Steven Nelson, dean of the Center. “Smith’s presentations will contribute to the public discourse about the powerful role that performing arts can play in exploring our world and humanity.”

About Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith is a University Professor at the Tisch School of the Arts. In 2012 President Obama awarded her the National Humanities Medal. In 2015 she was named the Jefferson Lecturer by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the nation’s highest honor in the field. She was the recipient of the prestigious 2013 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for achievement in the arts, and of the Ridenhour Courage Prize and the George Polk Career Award in Journalism, both in 2017. Smith has also been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and for two Tony Awards. She is the recipient of several honorary doctorates, including from University of Oxford, Spelman College, Yale University, Harvard University, and the Juilliard School.

Smith has created over 15 one-person shows based on hundreds of interviews. In 2016 her play Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education looked at the vulnerability of youth, inequality, the criminal justice system, and contemporary activism. Her play Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 was recently named one of the best plays of the last 25 years by the New York Times. She has appeared on the television shows Black-ish, For the People, Nurse Jackie, Inventing Anna, and The West Wing; and her films include The American President, Philadelphia, and Rachel Getting Married.

About the Mellon Lectures

Inaugurated in 1949, the Mellon Lectures is the longest-running lecture series at the National Gallery of Art. The series was founded to present the best contemporary thought and scholarship in the fine arts. The program itself is named for Andrew W. Mellon, founder of the National Gallery of Art, who gave the nation his art collection and funds to build the West Building, which opened to the public in 1941. Lecturers have included art historians, artists, archaeologists, poets, and musicologists. See the full list.

Contact Information

General Information
For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000 South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
e-mail: [email protected]

Chief of Communications
Anabeth Guthrie
phone: (202) 842-6804
e-mail: [email protected]

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