As part of its efforts to honor and preserve our nation’s diverse cultural heritage, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) annually awards one-time-only National Heritage Fellowships for master folk and traditional artists. These fellowships are intended to recognize the recipients’ artistic excellence and support their continuing contributions to our nation’s traditional arts heritage.
Oregon is proudly home to six National Heritage Fellows:
Obo Addy: Ghanaian-American Drummer, 1996
Kevin Burke: Irish Fiddler, 2002
Genoveva Castellanoz: Mexican-American Corona Maker, 1987
Pat Courtney Gold: Wasco Wapaas (Sally Bag) Weaver, 2007
Duff Severe: Western Saddlemaker, 1982
Yuqin Wang and Zhengli Xu: Chinese Rod Puppeteers, 2004
OFN attends National Heritage Fellowship events, October 2012
by Riki Saltzman, Executive Director, OFN
Every few years, state folk arts coordinators (FACs) participate in the annual national meeting of state arts agencies (NASAA). This year, besides excellent folk arts peer sessions, professional development sessions on virtual fundraising, creative place making, and cultural tourism, one of the highlights was attending award ceremonies, a sumptuous dinner at the Library of Congress, and a fabulous concert for the 2012 National Heritage Fellows. Witnessing Hawai’i’s Senator Daniel Inouye congratulate Okinawan traditional dancer Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone was quite a thrill.
Each year, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) honors just a few with this highest form of federal recognition for folk and traditional artists. Having the opportunity to see Massachusetts’s master shipwright Harold Burnham and New York’s klezmer clarinetist Andy Statman share the stage with North Dakota’s dog sled and showshoe designers and builders Paul and Darlene Bergren, Maryland dobro player Mike Auldridge, and Hawai’i’s Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone was awe-inspiring. Adding to the range of art forms and cultures honored were Passamaquoddy basketmaker Molly Jeannette Neptune Parker from Maine, Tejano accordion player Leonard “Flaco” Jiménez of Texas, and the Paschall Brothers, a gospel quartet from Virginia.
Topping off the celebration was the Bess Lomax Hawes award, which this year was given to Al Head, the Executive Director of the Alabama Arts Council and the person responsible for starting state folk and traditional arts programs in Florida, Louisiana, and Alabama—no small feat! As well, Al has inspired at least a generation of folklorists who have not only worked in those states but who have also gone on to other states, among them Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. To learn more about this year’s fellows, visit the NEA’s website: http://www.arts.gov/honors/heritage/index.html .
Since the inception of the National Heritage Fellowships in 1982, many Oregon folk and traditional artists have been honored, from Pendleton’s Duff Severe, western saddle maker, who was among the first recipients, http://www.nea.gov/honors/heritage/fellows/fellow.php?id=1982_13&type=bio , to our most recent 2007 Fellow, Pat Courtney Gold, Wasco sally bag weaver from Scappoose. For a complete list and links of the six Oregon National Heritage Fellows, visit OFN’s website http://ofn.uoregon.edu/folk-and-traditional-arts/artists/ .
If you have suggestions for nominees for Oregon’s next National Heritage Fellow (nominations due at the NEA, October 1, 2013), please contact the OFN at email@example.com. The NEA NHF criteria and process are posted http://arts.gov/honors/heritage/nomination.html . “Nominees must 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.”