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President and Mrs. Obama hosted an all-star music tribute celebrating the cultural resonance of art and literature in unique American musical forms. The evening included performances by Buddy Guy, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Audra McDonald, Keb’ Mo’, Smokey Robinson, Trombone Shorty, Esperanza Spalding, Brian Stokes Mitchell, James Taylor and Usher, with special readings and remarks from Carol Burnett.

The performances commemorated the 50th anniversary of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act that was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 29, 1965. The act called for the creation of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as separate, independent agencies, the culmination of a movement calling for the federal government to invest in culture.

The event also marked the first hip-hop performance in the “In Performance at the White House” broadcast series. The song selections for the evening drew from American-originated musical genres, including hip-hop, blues and the American Songbook. The hour-long program, part of the Emmy Award-nominated “In Performance at the White House” series, was the fifty-fifth production in the series’ thirty-seven year history. 

“A Celebration of American Creativity: In Performance at the White House” premiered January 8, 2016, at 9 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings for rebroadcast information), as part of PBS Arts.​

Funding for the program was provided by the LBJ Foundation, David M. Rubenstein, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Spencer Foundation and American Airlines.

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