Make a Nomination for National Heritage Fellowships

To honor and preserve our nation's diverse cultural heritage, the National Endowment for the Arts annually awards up to nine National Heritage Fellowships to master folk and traditional artists (inclusive of one Bess Lomax Hawes Fellowship). These fellowships recognize artistic excellence, lifetime achievement, and contributions to our nation's traditional arts heritage.

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.

Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship

One NEA National Heritage Fellowship will be given to an individual who has made major contributions to the excellence, vitality, and public appreciation of the folk and traditional arts. The nominee should be worthy of national recognition and must be actively engaged in perpetuating 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:

  • An artist whose contributions, primarily through teaching, advocacy, organizing, and maintaining important repertoires, have greatly benefited their artistic tradition.


  • An individual such as a producer or advocate whose efforts have significantly increased opportunities for and public visibility of traditional arts and artists.

Individuals may be nominated specifically for the Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship, and all nominees will be considered for this award.

What are the Folk & Traditional Arts?

The folk and traditional arts, which include crafts, dance, music, oral traditions, visual arts, and others, are those that are learned as part of the cultural life of a community whose members share a common ethnic heritage, cultural mores, 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.


If you would like to update a nomination submitted within the past four years, DO NOT use the online nomination form. Instead, please contact Folk & Traditional Arts Specialist Cheryl Schiele at for instructions.

Nomination Requirements

Awards will be up to $25,000 and may be received once in a lifetime.

Recipients will be selected on the basis of nominations from the public. Nominations may be for an individual or for a group of individuals (e.g., a duo or ensemble, but not an incorporated organization). A nominator may submit one or more nomination(s) in each round of the NEA National Heritage Fellowships and no one may nominate him/herself. Nominees must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States.

Individuals who have previously received a lifetime honor award from the National Endowment for the Arts (National Heritage Fellowship, Jazz Masters Fellowship, or an Opera Honor) are not eligible. Posthumous nominations or awards will not be considered. No payment will be made to the estate or heirs of a deceased recipient.

Step 1 – Submit Online Nomination through NEA Website

July 31, 2020 by 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

Step 2 – Submit Nomination Work Samples and Support Letters to Applicant Portal

August 5, 2020 at 9:00 a.m., Eastern Time to August 11, 2020 by 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

Announcement of Fellowship Award

Summer of 2021

Nominations are accepted by using our online nomination form. Each nomination should have a separate nomination package.

A nomination will not be considered complete (nor will it be reviewed) without work samples submitted through the Applicant Portal, unless the nomination is specifically for a Bess Lomax Hawes Fellowship. Your work samples should include recent and high quality examples of the nominee’s work. Nominations in the non-performing arts are especially encouraged to use high-quality photos or video that effectively show the quality of the artist’s work

Effective nominations frame the artist’s work through quality work samples, as well as letters of support from community members, persons with expertise in the nominee’s genre, and the nominee’s artistic peers. It is the responsibility of the nominator to frame the nominee’s work, cultural background, and lifetime achievements in the letter of nomination. While nominations will be reviewed by a panel of experts in the field of folk and traditional arts, nominators should not assume panelists will have pre-existing familiarity with the nominee or their specific cultural tradition.

NOTE: We do not accept mailed materials.

Step 1 – Submit Online Nomination through NEA Website            

The following attachments must be attached to the online nomination form to comprise a complete nomination package by July 31, 2020 by 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time.

Attachment 1: A PDF document of a nomination statement/letter that details the reasons that the nominee(s) should receive an NEA 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

Attachment 2: If the information is not included in the nomination letter, please attach a PDF document of a résumé or short biography that outlines the career of the nominee(s), a list of major public appearances or exhibitions by the nominee(s), and the titles of published works, if any.

DO NOT submit a Microsoft Word file. Each attachment file size limit is 1 MB (megabyte). A complete package should not exceed 20 pages in length. Excess pages will be removed and not be reviewed. Do not embed non-printable media files (video and/or sound) in your PDF documents. Static images (e.g., pictures) are acceptable. Please do not enable any document security settings or password-protect any PDF file you submit to us.

Step 2 – Submit Nomination Letters of Support and Work Samples to Applicant Portal

In addition to the material you submit electronically through our online form, you will upload the nomination’s support letters and/or work samples through the Applicant Portal. The Applicant Portal will be open for you to submit nomination work samples beginning on August 5, 2020 at 9:00 a.m., Eastern Time. You will have until 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, on August 11, 2020, to upload, preview/check, and submit your nomination work samples.

SPECIAL NOTE: Your registration (User I.D. and Password) for access to the Applicant Portal will be created for you by staff. Staff will contact you with your Applicant Portal registration information by email on the morning of August 5th

Please follow the guidelines for the work sample limits for your nomination material. The maximum amount allowable for work samples is all that may be seen or heard. Your nomination package will not be considered complete or reviewed without work samples, unless the nomination is specifically for a Bess Lomax Hawes NEA National Heritage Fellowship.

Items to Upload

Please arrange the items in the following order when uploading:

  • Statements of Support (combine all letters in one PDF document)
  • Video Work Samples
  • Audio Work Samples
  • Image Work Samples (combine all images in one PDF document)
  • Other Types of Work Samples

Work Sample Guidelines and Formats

You will be able to upload items in the formats described below. There is a limit of 250 MB for all of your items combined.

We will accept the following:

Note: Panelists will review no more than 20 minutes of combined work samples.






(not video or
audio links)

Max. # Allowed

3 selections

5 selections

20 images

3 PDF documents

5 websites

Max. Time Each Sample

3 minutes each

5 minutes each


Max. Size Each Sample *

150 MB

5 MB

5 MB

5 MB/ 12 pages each

5 MB

File Types

avi, mov, mp4, mpeg, rm, and wmv; or PDF with links

mp3, wav, aac, and mpa

jpg, gif, bmp, png, and tif; or PDF with images


PDF with links

* The combined storage for all work sample files is 250 MB.

Information About Uploaded Files
There can be a slight delay between the upload of your work samples and seeing them in the Applicant Portal. This is particularly true for videos. For videos, the usual upload time runs five to ten minutes. However, close to the deadline, this time may extend to as much as an hour. Videos are placed in a queue to be converted for upload, and the more people uploading, the longer the queue. Do not immediately assume that your upload failed; wait and try accessing the material again..

Your file names must not:

  • Exceed 100 characters.
  • Begin with a space, period, hyphen, or underline.
  • Contain these characters: #%&{}\<>*?/$!‘“:+`=|"@.

For each item that you upload, you will find a descriptive field into which you will enter the following information, as appropriate:

Title box:

  • For your letters/statements of support, state the type of item.
    (Ex: Letters of Support from John Doe, Jane Doe, and Jimmy Doe)
  • For video/audio/digital image/website/document work samples, state the title of the work or name of the nominee represented by the work sample.
    (Ex: This Little Light of Mine)

Description box (500 Character Limit, including spaces):
For your statements of support, simply state the type of item.

For video/audio/digital image/website/document work samples:

  • Name of the nominee featured. Describe what he/she is doing or wearing, if it is unclear (i.e., wearing a red shirt).
  • Title or description of the nominee’s work or activity.
  • Date work created/performed.
  • Brief description including how the work sample relates to the proposed nomination.
  • For audio and video samples, length of the sample.

Nominators submitting multiple websites or multiple images on a PDF should include the relevant information from above with each website or image in the PDF. The descriptive field for the file should provide a brief overview of the group of images or websites as a whole.

Additional Guidance for Video Samples

You may submit a link to a video sample, or upload a video sample directly.

If you submit a link:

Submit a PDF with an active hyperlink to the video’s web address. If you are including more than one web address, list them all on a single PDF. For each site, list the URLs for pages to be shown; include any necessary information on required plug-ins, passwords, or navigation paths. Do not submit links to sites that require work samples to be downloaded (e.g., Dropbox).

Uploading video samples:

In order to be uploaded, videos must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Resolution: At least 480 x 360
  • Frames per second (fps): At least 12

You can often check the resolution of a video as follows. In Windows environments, find the file on your computer, right click it, and select "Properties."  On a Mac, hold the Control key, and click on the file name. Select "Get Info" and the information should display. Most videos are a standard 29 frames per second.  

While the above requirements are the minimum, submitting your video in the mp4 (H.264) format at 640 x 480 with mp3 audio will allow for efficient uploading while showing your clips to best advantage.

If your video doesn't meet the minimum resolution requirements above, there are a number of software programs you can use to convert your video.

If you are submitting more than one video sample, you will upload each individually, in a separate file.

Additional Guidance for Digital Images

Please combine all of your images into a single PDF file This can be done by creating a Word or PowerPoint file and saving the file as a PDF. If more than one image appears on a page, then each image still counts toward the maximum of 20 allowable images. DO NOT submit PowerPoint or Word documents.  Image size should be consistent; medium to high resolution is recommended (e.g., 300 dpi).

Additional Guidance for Documents (Literary Samples, Publications, Periodicals, Catalogues)

Leave a margin of at least one inch at the top, bottom, and sides of all pages. Use only 8.5 x 11 inch size pages. Do not reduce type below 12 point font size. Within each PDF, number pages sequentially; place numbers on the bottom right hand corner of each page. Excess pages will be removed and not be reviewed.

If you scan material, please follow the guidance below:

  • Scan images at a resolution of 300 dpi. Resolutions over 300 dpi will result in unnecessarily large files.
  • Experiment with the JPEG quality settings. Saving the document as a "medium quality" or "low quality" JPEG will reduce the file size, and is not likely to reduce readability.

When you have scanned the images, combine them into a single PDF file. Submit a single file for each document; do not submit a separate file for each scanned page.

Additional Guidance for Websites

If you are providing more than one website for review, list all of them on a single PDF. For each web address, include any necessary information on required plug-ins, passwords, or navigation paths. Do not submit links to sites that require work samples to be downloaded (e.g., Dropbox).

NOTE: If you provide links to work samples - audio samples, digital images, video samples, or documents – the same limits on uploaded work samples apply to those provided via links.

Nomination Updates

If there is new information that significantly affects your nomination, please send that information immediately to the NEA. Include your nominee's name on any such submission.

All nomination updates should be sent to:
Cheryl T. Schiele, Folk & Traditional Arts Specialist

Deadline for Nominations

Nominations must be submitted online no later than July 31, 2020, by 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time. Fellowships will be announced in the summer of 2021.

Review of Nominations

The selection criteria are artistic excellence, significance within the particular artistic tradition, and contributions to living cultural heritage.

Nominations are 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 a total of four years unless a nominee is selected for the National Heritage honor or passes away.