National Endowment for the Arts Announces Recipients of the 2012 NEA National Heritage Fellowships

Leonardo ‘Flaco’ Jiménez
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced the 2012 recipients of the United States’ highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. The NEA National Heritage Fellows recognizes folk and traditional artists for their artistic excellence and efforts to conserve the United States of America’s culture for future generations. The fellowships include a one-time award of $25,000.

Throughout their careers, these artists have honored the history of their art forms while also incorporating their own creativity and innovation to carry the art forms into the 21st century. For example, Leonardo “Flaco” Jiménez, learned to play the accordion from his father, a giant of this early Texan-Mexican tradition, but then went on to collaborate with contemporary musicians such as the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Ry Cooder.

This year’s nine recipients are masters of diverse traditional art forms, including two that have never before been honored through the National Heritage Fellowships: Okinawan dancing and dog sled and snowshoe building. In addition, for the first time ever, the NEA is recognizing a director of a state arts agency for his work in promoting the importance of the folk and traditional arts in defining and giving life to a community.

The 2012 NEA National Heritage Fellowship recipients are:

  • Mike Auldridge, dobro player (Silver Spring, MD)
  • Paul & Darlene Bergren, dog sled and snowshoe designers and builders (Minot, ND)
  • Harold A. Burnham, Master Shipwright (Essex, MA)
  • *Albert B. Head, traditional arts advocate (Montgomery, AL)
  • Leonardo “Flaco” Jiménez, Tejano accordion player (San Antonio, TX)
  • Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone, Okinawan dancer (Honolulu, HI)
  • Molly Neptune Parker, Passamaquoddy basketmaker (Princeton, ME)
  • The Paschall Brothers, Tidewater Gospel Quartet (Chesapeake, VA)
  • Andy Statman, Klezmer clarinetist, mandolinist, composer (Brooklyn, NY)

*Albert B. Head is the recipient of the Bess Lomax Hawes NEA National Heritage Fellowship award. The Bess Lomax Hawes Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage.

At the NEA, we are working to invest in, support, and celebrate all the arts in this country,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. “From the tidewater gospel traditions of the Paschall Brothers to Mike Auldridge’s innovative approach to the Dobro and Andy Statman’s work in reviving klezmer music, these nine NEA National Heritage Fellows are not only national leaders in their art forms, but also leaders of their communities in which they live, work, and create.”

The 2012 awardees will go to Washington, DC, in October for a series of events including an awards presentation and banquet at the Library of Congress, as well as a concert scheduled for Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. at the George Washington University Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. Free tickets will be available this fall. Check the NEA website for more details.

About the NEA National Heritage Fellowships

The 2012 honorees join the ranks of previous Heritage Fellows, including bluesman B.B. King, Cajun fiddler and composer Michael Doucet, cowboy poet Wally McRae, gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples, and bluegrass musician Bill Monroe. Since 1982, the Arts Endowment has awarded 368 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 the panel reviewed 200 nominations for the nine fellowships. The ratio of winners to nominees indicates the select nature of this national honor.

The NEA is currently accepting nominations for the 2013 class of NEA National Heritage Fellowships. The deadline is October 1, 2012. Visit the NEA’s website to submit a nomination.

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