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National Endowment for the Arts  
Lifetime Honors
  NEA National Heritage Fellowships  

To honor and preserve our nation’s diverse cultural heritage, the National Endowment for the Arts annually awards up to ten one-time-only NEA National Heritage Fellowships to master folk and traditional artists. These fellowships recognize lifetime achievement, artistic excellence and contributions to our nation’s traditional arts heritage.

Nomination Information

Nominees should be worthy of national recognition and have a record of continuing artistic accomplishment. They must be actively participating in their art form, either as practitioners or as teachers. Fellows are selected according to criteria of authenticity, excellence, and significance within the particular artistic tradition.

Each year, the National Endowment for the Arts awards a National Heritage Fellowship to an individual who has made major contributions to the excellence, vitality, and public appreciation of the folk and traditional arts. Named after the influential advocate, educator, and producer of the folk and traditional arts, Bess Lomax Hawes, this award recognizes:

  • Artists whose contributions, primarily through teaching, advocacy, organizing, and preserving important repertoires, have greatly benefited their artistic tradition.

  • Individuals such as producers and activists whose efforts have significantly increased opportunities for and public visibility of traditional arts and artists.

For the Bess Lomax Hawes award, nominees will be considered based on their achievements in fostering excellence, ensuring vitality, and promoting public appreciation of the folk and traditional arts. Nominees should be worthy of national recognition and must be actively engaged in preserving the folk and traditional arts.

For All Fellowships

This fellowship category is not open to application. Fellowships are awarded on the basis of nominations from the public. Nominations may be for individuals or for a group of individuals (e.g., a duo). The recipients must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States.

Each award is $20,000.

How to Submit a Nomination

Nominations may be made by submitting a letter that details the reasons that the nominee(s) should receive a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship. Describe the nominee’s contributions to his or her particular artistic tradition and explain why this individual or group deserves national recognition. Individuals may be nominated specifically for the Bess Lomax Hawes award and all nominees will be considered for this award. No one may nominate him/herself.

Include the following items with your nomination letter:

  • A resume or a short biography that outlines the career of the nominee(s).

  • Contact information for the nominator and nominee(s).

  • Clearly labeled, recent samples of the work of the artist(s). Visual artists must be represented by slides; musicians and storytellers by videotapes or sound recordings; and dancers by videotape samples. The content of slides should be labeled clearly on a separate list; sound and video samples should be cued to the segment to be reviewed. Other documentation may be added as desired.

  • References to recent articles written about the nominee(s) if any, or copies of the articles themselves.

  • A list of major public appearances or exhibitions by the nominee(s) and the titles of published works, if any.

  • A maximum of five letters that demonstrate expert and/or community support for this nomination.

  • For the Bess Lomax Hawes Award, a statement that details the nominee's previous and current achievements in fostering the excellence, vitality, and public appreciation of traditional arts and artists.

Deadline for Nominations

For FY 2005:

Nominations must be postmarked (or show other proof of mailing) no later than October 1, 2004. Grant awards will be announced in the spring of 2005.

For FY 2006:

Nominations must be postmarked (or show other proof or mailing) no later than October 1, 2005. Grant awards will be announced in the spring of 2006.

Send your nomination to:

National Heritage Fellowships
Folk & Traditional Arts
National Endowment for the Arts
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Room 720
Washington, DC 20506-0001

Phone: 202/682-5428

NOTE: Support material such as slides and tapes will not be returned except under the most special circumstances. Please do not send the only copy. You may submit additional material in support of your nomination at any time. However, if the review process for the current round of fellowships has started, the staff will retain your material for consideration in future years.

Review of Nominations

Once a nomination has been submitted to the Arts Endowment, it is reviewed by an advisory panel of folk and traditional arts experts and at least one knowledgeable layperson. Panel recommendations are forwarded to the National Council on the Arts, which then makes recommendations to the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. The Chairman reviews the Council’s recommendations and makes the final decision on all the award recipients.

Nominations remain active for five years. The nominee(s) will be reviewed annually during this period.

Folk and Traditional Arts

The folk and traditional arts which include music, crafts, dance, storytelling, and others are those that are learned as part of the cultural life of a community whose members share a common ethnic heritage, language, religion, occupation, or geographic region. These traditions are shaped by the aesthetics and values of a shared culture and are passed from generation to generation, most often within family and community through observation, conversation, and practice.

Mission of the NEA

The National Endowment for the Arts 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.

Notice concerning delivery of First-Class and Priority mail

The National Endowment for the Arts continues to experience lengthy delays in the delivery of First-Class mail. In addition, some or all of the First-Class and Priority mail we receive may be irradiated to protect against biological contamination.

Support material (e.g., CDs, videos, slides, etc.) put through this process may be severely damaged. If you are sending this kind of material, we strongly encourage you to consider using commercial delivery services.