The Washington Post Sunday

‘That Spectrum Was What I Had in Mind.’

Ivan Chermayeff Sheds Light on His Medal Design

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This weekend, six more living arts legends have been draped in the unforgetta­ble Kennedy Center Honors medal, a mosaic of rainbow ribbon, delicately clipped together with three small gold-toned bars. It is only one of many recognizab­le works by artist, designer and illustrato­r Ivan Chermayeff, 76, and his New Yorkbased company — think the Library of Congress’s book/flag logo. Chermayeff is happy to explain why it makes for a great memento no matter how unwieldy it appears around a lady’s neck.

— Jennifer Frey You created this award 31 years ago, but now the concept of the rainbow ribbon is significan­tly identified with gay pride and gay rights. How do you react to that?

It’s a bit like complainin­g about the sun and the moon. . . . It’s inevitable that the spectrum is taken up in other things because it’s pretty powerful and that’s the reason. And one can’t lay a claim and patent the spectrum and the sun and the moon. So, sure, some may mind, but I don’t! The only thing that one would ask is that they do it well. What was the visual statement you were trying to make?

That spectrum was what I had in mind in the first place, in that it’s a spectrum of many skills within the performing arts. Singing, dancing, and so on. They also dwarf most awards of this kind.

They are a sizable thing, instead of a coin that sits on a desk. So they have a presence for the people who receive them. The medal is very distinctiv­e on a tux, but a woman is so careful about her accessorie­s. Did it surprise you to hear that some of the ladies honored — Dolly Parton, for example — had their dresses designed to suit the award?

I didn’t envision that. Making a selection about what you’re going to wear is challengin­g and difficult enough. And to have an Oscar de la Renta design it? That’s something. And it’s expensive! But Dolly Parton can afford it. [Laughs.] Seriously, it’s clearly that the identity of it works and it means something.

 ?? BY HELAYNE SEIDMAN FOR THE WASHINGTON POST ??
BY HELAYNE SEIDMAN FOR THE WASHINGTON POST
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