Joy Harjo, Kristin Chenoweth to join prestigious lists of cultural icons.
Joy Harjo, Kristin Chenoweth to join prestigious lists of cultural icons.
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Joy Harjo, Kristin Chenoweth to receive cultural designations at 44th Oklahoma Governor's Arts Awards

OKLAHOMA CITY (October 12, 2021) – United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth will be added to prestigious lists of Oklahoma cultural icons during the 2021 Oklahoma Governor’s Arts Awards at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
During the event, Harjo will be designated as the 14th Oklahoma Cultural Treasure and Chenoweth will be designated as the seventh Oklahoma Cultural Ambassador. Both will be in attendance to receive the designations. The ceremony will take place in the Capitol’s fourth floor rotunda on Tuesday, November 9, 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples said Harjo and Chenoweth represent the unmistakable influence of Oklahomans on the world stage of arts and culture.
“The designations of Oklahoma Cultural Treasure and Oklahoma Cultural Ambassador are reserved for those who have moved the needle in their respective artistic disciplines at national and international scales,” Sharples said. “Joy Harjo is revered throughout the literary world for her extraordinary and widely acclaimed career. Oklahomans can be proud that its first United States Poet Laureate is also the first-ever Native American to serve in the esteemed position. Kristin Chenoweth, with genuine adoration for her home state, is one of the most omnipresent and beloved performers on the stage and screen. It will be an honor to add their names to these exclusive designations of individuals who have garnered Oklahoma positive attention across the world for the excellence our state has produced in the arts.”
“To be called forth in this way by my community is a tremendous honor,” Harjo said. “It’s an honor I accept on behalf of the ancestors and relatives who have walked this earthly trail and inspire us with their artistic, literary, and keeping-it-together talents, who took and take care of the spirit of the people so we can keep going no matter the challenges in the story field. My story winds around the world, inspired by so many, but it begins and ends here in Oklahoma. Mvto.”
Chenoweth said, “I know this award isn't given every year. I know much thought is put into it. It has been very important to me my whole life to make my home state proud. Never would I expect an award for it, but I love being an Okie girl, and I always will.”
About Joy Harjo
Appointed in 2020 to a rare third term as 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee Nation. She is the author of nine books of poetry, several plays and children’s books, and two memoirs. Her honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Harjo has produced seven award-winning music albums. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, and a current Tulsa Artist Fellow. Her signature project as U.S. Poet Laureate, “Living Nations, Living Words,” features an interactive story map developed in conjunction with the Library of Congress that maps 47 contemporary Native American poets across the country and connects to an online audio collection developed by Harjo and housed in the Library’s American Folklife Center.
About Kristin Chenoweth
Actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth’s career spans film, television, voiceover, and stage. Among her accolades, Chenoweth received a coveted star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015. In 2009, she received an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in “Pushing Daisies.” In 1999, she won a Tony Award for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and in 2004 she was nominated for her original role of Glinda the Good Witch in “Wicked.” As a recording artist, Chenoweth recently released her album, “For The Girls,” a heartfelt tribute to female singers such as Barbra Streisand, Lesley Gore, Linda Ronstadt, Dinah Washington, Dolly Parton, and more. Her notable television roles have included “Trial & Error,” “The West Wing,” Disney’s “Descendants,” and “The Muppets,” among others. Her film credits include “The Peanuts Movie,” “Four Christmases,” “Bewitched,” “The Pink Panther,” and more. In 2015, Chenoweth launched the annual Kristin Chenoweth Broadway Bootcamp in partnership with the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center to provide students with immersive performance training taught by Broadway, film, and stage industry professionals. 
Joy Harjo
(photo by Shawn Miller)
Kristin Chenoweth
(photo by John Russo)
Oklahoma Cultural Treasures
The designation of Oklahoma Cultural Treasure honors individuals considered especially precious or valuable by a particular period, class, community, or population. Designees must be 70 years of age or older, be a bearer of intangible cultural assets, and have outstanding artistic or historical worth. Treasures include:
2018 Wanda Jackson 
2015 Ed Ruscha 
2004 John Hope Franklin  
2002 Wilson Hurley 
2001 Charles Banks Wilson  
1999 N. Scott Momaday  
1997 Yvonne Chouteau  
1997 Rosella Hightower 
1997 Moscelyne Larkin 
1997 Maria Tallchief  
1997 Marjorie Tallchief 
1995 Doc Tate Nevaquaya  
1987 Te Ata

Oklahoma Cultural Ambassadors
The designation of Oklahoma Cultural Ambassador honors native Oklahomans who whose impact in the arts have achieved national and international acclaim. Ambassadors include:

2003 Leona Mitchell
2001 Alfre Woodard
1997 W. Richard West
1990 Stephen Dickson
1989 James Garner
1984 Allan Houser

2021 Governor’s Arts Awards Honorees
In addition to the designations of Harjo and Chenoweth respectively as Oklahoma Cultural Treasure and Oklahoma Cultural Ambassador, 14 individuals and three organizations will receive Governor’s Arts Awards in several categories.

The Governor's Award
Barbara Smith (Miami)

The Business in the Arts Award
Ambler Architects (Bartlesville)

The Arts in Education Award
Ashley Wells (The Village)
Bring Back the Music (Spencer)
Hui Cha Poos (Edmond)
Randy Tinker Smith and Jenna Smith LaViolette (Pawhuska)

The Community Service Award
Alberto Rivas (Lawton)
David Hornbeek (Edmond)
Dr. Dian Jordan (Broken Bow)
Donald Moore (Okemah)
Red Dirt Relief Fund (Tulsa)
Wallace Owens (Guthrie)

The Media in the Arts Award
Dennis Spielman (Norman)

The George Nigh Public Service in the Arts Award
Dr. Bob Blackburn (Oklahoma City)
Lonnie Yearwood (Colony)

The Special Recognition Award
Harvey Pratt (Guthrie)

For more information, contact Joel Gavin, Oklahoma Arts Council director of marketing and communications, at (405) 521-2037 or
About the Oklahoma Arts Council
The Oklahoma Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts. The agency’s mission is to lead, cultivate, and amplify the transformative power of the arts for all Oklahomans and their communities. The Oklahoma Arts Council provides more than 425 grants to nearly 270 organizations in communities statewide each year, organizes professional development opportunities for the state's arts and cultural industry, and manages the art collections at the Oklahoma state Capitol. Additional information is available at
Media Contact
Joel Gavin
Director of Marketing and Communications
(405) 521-2037

P.O. Box 52001-2001 | Oklahoma City, OK 73152-2001 US
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