Broadway World 2017

Academy Award Winner and Artistic Director of The Actors’ Gang, Tim Robbins, on Friday received the 16th Annual Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award, presented by Smithsonian Associates and the Creativity Foundation, in honor of his commitment to the arts and education. Robbins was on hand to accept the award and discuss his innovative work as an actor, director, producer, writer, and activist at the Smithsonian’s S. Dillon Ripley Center. The following day, he had a wide-ranging discussion about creativity with this year’s young Creativity Legacy Award winners and presented them with their awards.

Together each year, the Creativity Foundation’s board and the Smithsonian Associates select the Creativity Laureate, an award that honors individuals for their extraordinary creativity and their commitment to public service. In 2002, the first Creativity Laureate was Yo-Yo Ma. To date, the Laureates have come from music, the humanities, jurisprudence, biology, business, theoretical physics, literature, the visual and theatrical arts.

Said Laurie Kahn, Chair of the Creativity Foundation, “Tim Robbins believes in the joy and transformative power of the arts. In addition to pursuing his own diverse career as an actor, writer, director and producer, he also reaches out to empower others in prisons, schools, summer programs, public parks, and communities around the world. He exemplifies the spirit of the Creativity Laureate Award, which was created to honor individuals for their extraordinary creativity and their commitment to public service.”

In addition to accepting his own honor, Robbins had the privilege of presenting the 2017 Legacy Prizes, awarded annually to a select group of six students who show great promise, creativity, and dedication in their fields. These students were chosen by a participating high school, university, or national program; each selects its Legacy Award recipient for creative promise, using criteria that reflect its own values. Winners were then invited to Washington, D.C. to attend the Annual Celebration and participate in an intimate and inspirational Creativity Round Table with Robbins, where they discussed their own creative visions, further initiatives for the Legacy program and the importance of mentoring. At a Legacy Awards Ceremony, each Legacy prizewinner was awarded a silver medal, presented by Robbins as the current Creativity Laureate.

On and off the screen, Robbins has played many roles – creating memorable characters in films from Bull Durham to The Shawshank Redemption and beyond. His extraordinary talent as a director is on display in films ranging from Bob Roberts to Dead Man Walking. He is also Founding Artistic Director of the 35-year-old Los Angeles theater company, The Actors’ Gang, and Creative Director of its Prison Project which works with inmates, including juveniles, in California state prisons. The classes and workshops bring together inmates from different races – and different gangs – in a setting where emotions are otherwise discouraged.

The Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award recognizes and celebrates influential thinkers, innovators and catalysts in the arts, sciences and humanities, in both traditional and emerging disciplines. Previous recipients include Yo-Yo Ma, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Eric Kandel, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Jules Feiffer, Ted Turner, Lisa Randall, Meryl Streep, Greg Mortenson, Johnnetta Cole, Mark Morris, Bill Drayton, Shirley Tilghman and Azar Nafisi.

The Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award is made possible by the Creativity Collaboration, a joint program of Smithsonian Associates and the Creativity Foundation. For information about the Creativity Foundation, visit

Photo Credit: Arthur Feller & the Creativity Foundation