The academy recognizes superior achievement in the arts and literature. The limited membership of 250 currently includes Christo, Jasper Johns, Philip Johnson and Stephen Sondheim. Among past members are Duke Ellington, Allen Ginsberg, Henry James and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Three exhibitions are mounted in the galleries each year drawing largely from the work and experience of academy members and award recipients. The academy's permanent collection contains some 25,000 books and 2,000 original manuscripts, paintings and photographs illuminating the lives and work of members. The academy shares its location with the Hispanic Society of America and Boricua College. All are located at Audubon Terrace, the former estate of the American artist John James Audubon. Railroad and steamship magnate Archer Milton Huntington paid for the academy's neo-classical buildings, which were designed by McKim, Mead & White and Cass Gilbert and built in the 1920s.