American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, honorary academy of notable American artists, writers, and composers. The National Institute of Arts and Letters, founded in 1898, served as the parent body for the American Academy of Arts and Letters, founded in 1904, until the two were amalgamated in 1976. Membership is limited to 250 native or naturalized U.S. citizens, of which 50 are elected to the Academy for notable achievements in art, literature, or music. The Academy-Institute also has an honorary membership of 75 foreign artists, writers, and composers to strengthen cultural ties with other countries. The Academy-Institute offers a number of prizes annually, including the Brunner Memorial Award in Architecture and the Gold Medal for excellence in the arts. The members of the Academy confer the Howells Medal, given every five years for a work of American fiction, and the Award of Merit Medal, given in five categories of the arts to a person not affiliated with the Academy. Located in New York City, it maintains a museum and a library (23,000 volumes), and holds exhibitions of works of art, manuscripts, books, and scores. It also purchases paintings by American artists for distribution to museums.
See A Century of Arts and Letters (1998), ed. by J. Updike.