NEA National Heritage Fellowships

Podcasts

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Photo courtesy of Edwin Remsberg

NEA Director of Folk and Traditional Arts

In this podcast, Clifford Murphy, National Endowment for the Arts Director of Folk and Traditional Arts, introduces the recently announced 2020 NEA National Heritage Fellows. This is the country’s highest honor—a lifetime achievement award—for folk and traditional artists whose life’s work includes both artistic excellence and efforts to sustain cultural traditions for future generations. As Murphy says in the podcast, folk art has been described as “something learned knee-to-knee.” All nine recipients of the Heritage Award serve as exemplary mentors as well as inspired artists. Murphy doesn’t just discuss each artist, he also talks about each art form—whether it’s dance, song, beadwork, or canoe-building—and the culture in which it's embedded. We also talk about some of the ways the folk and traditional arts field has been impacted by the pandemic and creative adjustments that folk and traditional artists have made in response to the crisis. Murphy is not only enormously knowledgeable about the folk and traditional arts, but it's clear he holds a deep love for these arts and the people and communities that create them.

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Photo by Adam Jahiel

Leatherworker and 2019 National Heritage Fellow

Leatherworker and 2019 National Heritage Fellow James F. Jackson creates sculpture by carving leather. Go to his website and check out his work—then listen to the podcast. You really have to see the complexity and beauty of his leatherwork to appreciate our conversation about it. With all his projects, James does the work from start to finish: he designs, cuts, carves, glues, sews, sometimes paints and finishes the leather. And while James has certainly created his share of saddles, he also uses leather as the material for unlikely forms like vessels or lamps or wall hangings. Listen to a gentle man from Sheridan, Wyoming discuss his art, his teaching leatherwork around the world, the significance of traditional arts, and the deep impact of the Sheridan style of carving on Japanese leatherworkers.

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Bob Fulcher

Photo by Sarah Terpstra Hanson

2019 National Heritage Fellow, Folklorist, State Park Manager

For more than 40 years, folklorist, state park manager, and 2019 National Heritage Fellow Bobby Fulcher has been seeking out and recording traditional artists, creating programming around these artists to shine a light on their work, and serving as an inspiration and mentor to multiple generations of young folklorists. That Fucher has accomplished all this while working for Tennessee State Parks really gets to the heart of his vision: the deep connection between traditional culture and the natural environment in which it occurs. He began his career as a naturalist and came to love and cherish not just the environment but also the traditional arts that were created in the Cumberlands of Tennessee. When he first heard traditional banjo music in college, he thought, “If I could learn that, I’d be happy every day there on out.” He did learn the banjo and would bring it with him when he went on his search for little-known traditional musicians because he believed that if you arrive with “a banjo or fiddle in your hand, you’ll make yourself welcome wherever you go.” He is a soft-spoken philosopher who has brought to his work an insatiable curiosity and a deep sense of wonder. You’ll hear it in this podcast—and you’ll also hear some of the old-time music Fucher has shone a light on.

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Photo by Gregg Mizuta

2019 National Heritage Fellow Basque musician and tradition bearer

2019 National Heritage Fellow Basque musician, teacher and restauranteur Dan Ansotegui brings his passion for the Basque culture into everything he does. But he also sees culture as a breathing entity—not something set in amber. The roots of the tree may come from the Basque Region, but those leaves are growing in Boise, Idaho. Ansotegui is a great talker. In this podcast, ­learn about Basque music, dancing, and food (he does it all!) and the deep social connections these traditions give a community.

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Linda Goss

Photo by Edwin Remsberg

2019 NEA National Heritage Fellow and Storyteller

Storyteller Linda Goss, one of the pioneers of the Black Storytelling Movement, has just been named a 2019 NEA National Heritage Fellow. Goss is known as “Mama Linda” because of her pathbreaking work, which includes co-founding (with Mother Mary Carter Smith) the National Association of Black Storytellers, unearthing and documenting nearly forgotten stories, serving as a mentor to younger storytellers, and her own exuberant way of telling stories. From the beginning, Mama Linda has recognized the transformative power of storytelling and the importance of bearing witness. She’s a mesmerizing speaker—beginning each storytelling session with her trademark bells and a call to the community to come and listen. She draws listeners into the heart of the story she’s telling; she’ll draw you into the podcast as well! The NEA National Heritage Award is the nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts. Have a listen—you’ll see why Mama Linda is a national treasure.

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Eddie Bond

Photo by Pat Jarrett

In Part 1 of my conversation with 2018 National Heritage Fellow and old-time fiddler Eddie Bond, we learned about his deep musical roots and the family and friends that nurtured them. Eddie said that the music has taken him to so many places, and in part 2, we follow him on these travels as Eddie brings his old-time fiddling across the country and around the world—beginning in an unlikely spot: Iraq during the Gulf War where Eddie served as a young soldier.

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Eddie Bond

Photo by Susi Lawson Photography

2018 National Heritage Fellow

Old-time fiddler Eddie Bond was born and bred in Grayson County, Virginia, which many consider the musical heart of Appalachian old-time music. Eddie himself comes from a rich musical heritage: he learned the guitar and flat-foot dancing from his grandmother, the banjo from his grandfather, and the fiddle from neighbors. He’s a stunning musical talent picking up all three instruments very quickly and excelling at each. But Eddie gave his heart to the fiddle—winning competitions and playing across the country and throughout the world. Because old-time music is so deeply rooted in place and because Eddie Bond is a great storyteller, this is a two-part podcast. In part 1, we’ll learn about Eddie’s upbringing, the place music had in his family’s life, his own playing, and talk about the roots of old-time music.

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Photo by Tom Pich

2018 National Heritage Fellow and African American Quilter

2018 National Heritage Fellow African American Quilter Marion Coleman is a story teller with fabric. Her narrative quilts depict personal stories, history, and portraits…from small nightclubs in Oakland to a series about Black Cowboys to the life story of the first African American woman pilot—Marion’s quilts create visual stories. She’s combines both traditional and contemporary quiltmaking techniques, using ceramics, whole garments, buttons, paper, and photographs in her quilts. Sometimes, she transfers photo imagery onto the quilt itself—which she then fills in with fabric. Her distinctive way of looking at the world is apparent in her conversation as well. Listen to the podcast and follow Marion from Texas to Oakland where she had a thirty year career as a social worker and became one of the most innovative quilters of her time.

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Photo by Richard Church, Pottawatomi and Ottawa

2018 National Heritage Fellow

2018 National Heritage Fellow Kelly Church is a black ash basket maker. An Anishinaabe belonging to the Gun Lake Potawami Band, Kelly combines the centuries-old tradition of tree harvesting and processing ash trees, creating ribbons of ash that she then weaves with her own keen visual sense which result in stunningly original baskets. Tied to her artistry is dep commitment to keeping this tradition not just alive but vital. She’s taken on a task that’s become more difficult and more urgent, since the ash tree is being destroyed by an invasive species the emerald ash borer. In this podcast, Kelly Church takes us on the journey of taking a living tree and recreating it as a basket, the significance of the black ash tree for the North East people, and the steps she’s taking to keeping this traditional art intact for the next generations.

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Photo by Mark Markley

2018 National Heritage Fellow

Chicana altarista and 2018 National Heritage Fellow Ofelia Esparza carries on and extends her family’s tradition of celebrating The Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos by creating altars to honor deceased loved ones and create a bridge between the living and the dead. She brings an artist’s eye to this cultural practice: her altars are colorful, intricate multi-level structures embellished with photos, traditional food, flowers, as well as handmade and found ornaments that evoke ancestors and deceased relatives. She’s also been in the forefront of reclaiming this practice for the Chicana community in Los Angeles. In this podcast, Ofelia shares her stories of growing up in East LA and discusses the essential meaning at the heart of Dia de los Muertos which is to remember.

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