National Endowment for the Arts Announces 2006 Recipients of Nation's Highest Honor in the Folk and Traditional Arts
June 15, 2006
Washington, D.C. - The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) today announced the 2006 recipients of the NEA National Heritage Fellowships, the country's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Eleven fellowships, which include a one-time award of $20,000 each, are presented to honorees from nine states.
These awardees were chosen for their artistic excellence, cultural authenticity, and contributions to their field. They represent a cross-section of ethnic cultures including Hispanic, Hawaiian, Alaskan, and African American artistic traditions expressed through art forms ranging from hula dancing and cedar bark weaving to blues piano and gospel singing.
The 2006 NEA National Heritage Fellowship recipients are:
Charles M. Carrillo; santero (carver and painter of sacred figures); Santa Fe, NM
The 2006 Bess Lomax Hawes Award goes to advocate, scholar, presenter, and preservationist Nancy Sweezy of Lexington, Massachusetts.
National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia said, "In this 40th anniversary year of the NEA, it is particularly appropriate that we honor these master artists whose dedication and exceptional artistry have enriched our nation's cultural landscape."
This year marks the first time that a daughter and father will have been honored individually with a fellowship. Mavis Staples's father, Roebuck "Pops" Staples, received a fellowship in 1998.
Another feature of this year's fellows is the extensive time some of the artists have been refining their craft. Henry Gray began playing blues and boogie-woogie piano at age 12 in the social clubs around Baton Rouge. Doyle Lawson took up the mandolin when he was only 11. Diomedes Matos built his first guitar at age 12 and, most precocious of all, George Na'ope began studying ancient Hawaiian chant and dance from his great grandmother when he was only three years old.
These honorees join the ranks of previous Heritage Fellows, including bluesman B.B. King, Cajun fiddler and composer Michael Doucet, cowboy poet Wally McRae and acclaimed performers Shirley Caesar, Doc Watson, and Bill Monroe. Since 1982, the Endowment has awarded more than 315 NEA National Heritage Fellowships.
Fellowship recipients are nominated by the public, often by members of their own communities, and then judged by a panel of experts in folk and traditional arts on the basis of their continuing artistic accomplishments and contributions as practitioners and teachers. This year a nine-member panel reviewed 217 nominations for the 11 fellowships. The ratio of winners to nominees indicates the extraordinary level of competition for this national honor.
This year, the NEA National Heritage Fellows concert in September moves to the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, Maryland. Opened in February 2005, the Music Center is a 1,976-seat concert hall and education center in a state-of-the-art, fully accessible facility.
The 2006 awardees will come to Washington D.C. in September for a series of events including a banquet at the Library of Congress and an awards presentation on Capitol Hill as well as the concert scheduled for Friday, September 15.
The National Endowment for the Arts marks its 40th anniversary of leadership in the arts this year. The NEA is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the largest national funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.
For more information, contact the NEA Office of Communications at 202-682-5570 or visit the NEA Web site at www.arts.gov.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency