By Joseph Hincks
December 4, 2017

Five artists, including singers Lionel Richie and Gloria Estefan and hip hop artist LL Cool J, were feted with Kennedy Center Honors Saturday night — considered America’s highest recognition for the arts.

But the ceremony was missing one aspect of its usual pomp: a White House reception with the President and First Lady, Reuters reports.

In August, the White House issued a statement saying that the audience with U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania would be nixed in order that the Kennedy Center Honors proceeded “without any political distraction.” The awards’ reception instead took place at the State Department.

Havana-born Estefan, said she was glad Trump had declined to attend. “Whenever something becomes more about the controversy than the actual achievements of the people that are receiving the award, it kinda dampens it for everybody,” the singer told Reuters.

Rapper and actor LL Cool J, who agreed that Trump’s presence would have been a distraction, told Reuters the ceremony was “a reminder that art matters.”

“I’ve never been more inspired,” he told the news agency.

In addition to the three recording artists, 86-year-old actress and dancer Carmen de Lavallade, and television producer Norman Lear, 95, were accorded Kennedy Center Honors Saturday, Reuters says.

Write to Joseph Hincks at joseph.hincks@time.com.

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