632 West 156th Street, between Broadway and Riverside Drive, New York, NY
The American Academy of Arts and Letters is an honor society of 250 architects, composers, artists, and writers, whose purpose is to foster and sustain an interest in Literature, Music, and the Fine Arts by identifying and encouraging individual artists. Founded in 1898 as the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the members of the Institute created the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1904, after the model of the Académie française. The original seven members included author William Dean Howells, sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, poet Edmund Clarence Stedman, painter John La Farge, author Mark Twain, writer and statesman John Hay, and composer Edward MacDowell (the first professor of music at Columbia University). The Institute and Academy acquired their permanent home in 1923 when they moved into the current headquarters building on West 155th Street, one of three Beaux Arts granite and limestone buildings that currently house the American Academy of Arts and Letters in the Audubon Terrace Historic District. The Academy’s second building, which houses the 730-seat auditorium in which Miller Theatre presents concerts, was designed by Cass Gilbert and was completed in 1930. Upon completion of this building, Academy member Herbert Adams designed two sets of bronze doors that represent Arts, Letters, Poetry, Music, Painting, Sculpture, Inspiration, and Drama, that are now installed at the Academy’s two terrace-level entrances, accessible from Broadway between 155th and 156th Streets.