NEA Arts Magazine

2005 NEA National Heritage Fellows: A Celebration of Folk and Traditional Artists


Chuck Brown

Chuck Brown, the "Godfather of Go-Go" music. Photo: Eduardo Rodriguez

Each year, the Arts Endowment celebrates folk and traditional artists by recognizing the NEA National Heritage Fellows. For 2005, twelve superlative makers — of rosemaling and papel picado, of Yiddish song, Cajun, gospel, and "go-go" music — will be given the highest federal recognition for their arts and crafts.

The process of finding the NEA National Heritage Fellows is comprehensive. In choosing them, our panel evaluated 270 individual nominations submitted by the public. Panelists read more than 4,500 pages of written nomination material and considered 1,114 visual images, 300 recorded sound samples, and 183 audio-visual selections.

In September, the recipients are brought to Washington for programs honoring their contributions to our nation's artistic heritage. Recipients are feted at a banquet held in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress. Later, Fellows receive a certificate in a ceremony on Capitol Hill, attended by family, friends, and members of Congress. The week culminates with a celebratory concert presenting the artists and their work to the general public.

The ceremony and related activities are generously supported by Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores.

2005 NEA National Heritage Fellows

Eldrid Skjold Arntzen (Watertown, CT) — for rosemaling, which flourished in 18th-century Norway as a form of decoration on wood, and was used on objects and furnishings in rural churches and homes.

Earl Barthé (New Orleans, LA) — for decorative plaster and stucco work that reflects an array of French, Spanish, Anglo-American neo-classical, and African American aesthetics, in sync with the historic architecture of New Orleans.

Chuck Brown (Brandywine, MD) — for a musical blend of Latin beats, African calland- response chants, rhythm and blues, and jazz ("go-go") that has been identified with the District of Columbia for more than 30 years.

Michael Doucet (Lafayette, LA) — a fiddler, composer, and bandleader, he is perhaps the single most important figure in the revitalization of Cajun music in the United States.

Earl Barthe holding up a decorative plaster work

Earl Barthé with one of his decorative plaster works.

Jerry Grcevich (North Huntingdon, PA) — for his mastery of all five of the instruments of the tamburitza (Serbo-Croatian string music) ensemble — the prim, braã, cello, bugarija, and bass.

Wanda Jackson (Oklahoma City, OK) — for her musical career spanning country ballads, early rock and roll, rockabilly, and gospel music.

Grace Henderson Nez (Ganado, AZ) — for her Navajo rugs in the "old style" as well as the distinct Ganado style. For more than seven decades, she has raised and sheared sheep, carded and dyed the wool, and woven intricate and distinctive designs at the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.

Herminia Albarrán Romero (San Francisco, CA) — for the art of papel picado (Mexican paper cutting) and altar-making. Her paper designs, flowers, and altars are used on special occasions such as weddings, Cinco de Mayo, and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (Bronx, NY) — for her Yiddish poetry and song. The renaissance of klezmer music in the United States also allowed her material to be performed by various artists.

Albertina Walker (Chicago, IL) — for her lifetime of commitment to gospel music. To date she has recorded more than 60 albums, with 5 gold records and 10 Grammy nominations among them.

James Ka'upena Wong (Waianae, HI) — for the art of Hawaiian chant. He is also known as a "keeper of the word" and thus the language, and as a master of ancient poetic chant called mele kahiko.

Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship
Janette Carter (Hiltons, VA) — for her support and promotion of the traditional music of the Appalachian region. Her parents and Aunt Maybelle made up the Carter Family, known as the "First Family of Country Music." In 1976, she and community members built an 880-seat amphitheater, the Carter Family Fold, beside the family store. A regular series of concerts has been offered there ever since. Today the Carter Family Fold attracts more than 50,000 visitors a year to this family run monument to early country music.

Brightly colored paper squares with designs

An example of Herminia Albarrán Romero’s masterful papel picado (Mexican paper cutting). Photo: courtesy of the artist