Venezuelan conductor and violinist Gustavo Dudamel became the first person in the field of music to receive the Paez Medal of Art, which is awarded annually to an individual or group that contributes to the proliferation of the arts in Venezuela and the United States.
"Dudamel is the youngest person to receive this medal" for his contributions to the arts, Ali Cordero Casal, chairman of the Venezuelan American Endowment for the Arts (VAEA), which awards the prize, told EFE Tuesday.
Cordero Casal said the 37-year-old Dudamel, who has been the music and artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 2009 and made his much-anticipated debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York last Friday conducting Verdi's "Otello," is a "great asset."
The VAEA said in awarding the prize to Dudamel in June that he was being honored for "his significant contribution to the arts and his unwavering commitment in bringing classical music to all, building international bridges and making powerful social transformation through his craft."
Past winners of the Paez Medal of Art, named after Venezuelan independence hero Jose Antonio Paez, include 95-year-old Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, a master of kinetic and op art who was awarded the honor in 2012; and American experimental theater stage director and playwright Robert Wilson (2013).
Cordero Casal told EFE that the severe economic crisis in Venezuela has had a negative impact on the arts but also has awakened artists' creativity.
"There are two ways of looking at this problem. This very complicated situation we're experiencing has awakened a great deal of creativity among artists, and there are a lot of proposals, an incredible flourishing," he said.
"But then there's the negative side, the fact the museums have no budget, no air conditioning; there's deterioration."
The exodus of many Venezuelans in the world of art and culture also is a problem, Cordero Casal said.
"Although they continue to produce their work, always under the banner of Venezuela, we miss them a great deal in our country," he said.