in the Public Realm
The Academy of Arts and Letters

The American Academy of Arts and Letters
Olivia Pei
Sites at this Tour Stop...

American Academy of Arts and Letters

American Numismatic Society Museum

About this Tour Stop...

The American Academy of Arts and Letters is an honor society of artists, writers, composers, and architects. The honor of election is considered the highest formal recognition of artistic merit in the United States. Only Academicians may nominate and elect new members. Awards of recognition and of monetary value are granted to members as a means of encouraging and fostering the arts. The Academy is housed within three buildings, made of limestone and granite. The first building was designed by William Mitchell Kendall of the firm McKim Mead & White. The building was completed in 1923, and currently houses administrative offices, a members’ room, a portrait gallery, a library, and exhibition galleries. Adolph A. Weinman, himself an Academy member, designed the bronze doors at the 155th St entrance, which were dedicated to Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, novelist and one of the first female members, and to the woman writers of America. A winged Pegasus flies over the door, which features figures in bas-relief. The second building was designed by Cass Gilbert and was completed in 1930. It houses a large terrace-level exhibition space and a large 730-seat auditorium. The bronze doors were done by Herbert Adams and represent Arts, Letter, Poetry, Music, Painting, Sculpture, Inspiration, and Drama. The third building was originally built for and occupied by the American Numismatic Society. It was designed by Charles Pratt Huntington, who also designed the plan of Audubon Terrace, the Hispanic Society building, the Geographical Society building, and the Museum of the American Indian Building. In 1930, the building was expanded to include addition of a west wing. This addition narrowed the terrace-level gap between this building and the Academy’s original building to a 12-foot corridor. In 2009, the Academy completed the Glass Link at the site of the corridor. The Glass Link was designed by James Vincent Czajika in consultation with Henry N. Cobb and Michael Flynn of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.