“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.”
National Endowment for the Arts
About the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowships
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) National Heritage Fellowship is the highest honor that our nation bestows upon its folk and traditional artists. Each year, nine to thirteen individuals, “national living treasures” from across the nation, are chosen to receive this one-time-only Fellowship in recognition of lifetime achievement, artistic excellence and contributions to our nation’s cultural heritage.
Bess Lomax Hawes, first director of NEA’s Folk & Traditional Arts Program, created the National Heritage Fellowships in 1982. National Heritage Fellowships are awarded on an annual basis. Recipients are announced in early summer; the Fellowship award ceremonies and other activities take place the following fall.
For information on how to nominate a deserving traditional artist for a National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship, visit the NEA’s website.Make an NEA National Heritage Fellowship Nomination
Watch the 2020 NEA National Heritage Fellowships documentary film
“The Culture of America: A Cross-Country Visit with the NEA National Heritage Fellows”
Watch National Heritage Fellow tributes
Starting in 2017, the NEA and the NCTA have worked with the Fellows, state arts agencies, folklorists and filmmakers to create short, documentary-style videos showcasing the artistry of each Fellow, their home community, and their traditions. These beautifully told tributes shine a light on the nation’s preeminent master artists and the diverse cultural communities they represent.
Watch recent National Heritage Fellowships Concerts
For over 30 years, the NCTA has worked with the NEA on a consulting basis to manage and coordinate the annual week of activities in Washington, D.C. honoring Fellowship recipients. These include a Capitol Hill award ceremony, a banquet in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress and a culminating gala public concert featuring the Fellowship awardees produced by the NCTA.
Listen to the latest from National Heritage Fellows
American Routes public radio series’ program on the 2020 NEA National Heritage Fellows aired over the holiday weekend in November 2020 and re-aired in May 2021.
American Routes public radio series’ program on the 2019 NEA National Heritage Fellows aired over Thanksgiving weekend and re-aired in May 2021.
NEA’s podcasts featuring National Heritage Fellows explore the honorees and their distinct art forms through one-on-one interviews.
Explore the interactive Masters of Tradition map
Masters of Tradition: A Cultural Journey Across America is an interactive story map and multimedia library from Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage showcasing the lives and works of National Heritage Fellows. Launching on September 16, this online resource documents and celebrates the rich cultural diversity of the United States.