Submit a National Heritage Fellowship Nomination

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To honor and preserve our nation's diverse cultural heritage, the NEA annually awards up to nine National Heritage Fellowships to master folk and traditional artists, including one Bess Lomax Hawes Fellowship (described below). These fellowships recognize artistic excellence, lifetime achievement, and contributions to our nation's traditional arts heritage. Through folk & traditional arts practice, National Heritage Fellows reveal that artful lives are enhanced by active community involvement and contribute to the well-being of individuals and communities.

National Heritage Fellowship 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, mentors, or as community scholars. Successful nominations demonstrate significant contributions to living folk and traditional arts, source communities, and/or the transmission of traditional knowledge to future generations.

The designation of a Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship will be awarded 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 Fellowship.

One or more nominations may be submitted in a year (using a separate online form for each submission). Nominations may also be submitted by an individual or group. All nominators must provide the name and contact information of the individual who will be responsible for all communication with NEA staff regarding the nomination, including receiving correspondence, making updates or changes, and receiving feedback.

Awards for the National Heritage Fellowships (including the Bess Lomax Hawes Fellowship) will be up to $25,000, and may be received once in a lifetime.

For FY2024, nominations for artists residing in the following states or jurisdictions will receive special consideration in the panel review: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Northern Marianas, Utah, and Vermont.


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.

What are the folk & traditional arts?

The folk and traditional arts are rooted in and reflective of the cultural life of a community. Community members may share a common ethnic heritage, cultural mores, language, religion, occupation, or geographic region. These vital and constantly reinvigorated artistic traditions are shaped by values and standards of excellence that are passed from generation to generation, most often within family and community, through demonstration, conversation, and practice. Genres of artistic activity include, but are not limited to, music, dance, crafts, and oral expression.

Nomination Requirements

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). Nominees must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States and may receive the Fellowship once in a lifetime. Self-nominations are not accepted and no one may nominate an eligible group in which they are an active member.

Individuals who have previously received any other lifetime honor award from the NEA (National Heritage Fellowship, Jazz Masters Fellowship, or an Opera Honor) are not eligible. Nominations of deceased individuals will not be considered. No payment will be made to the estate or heirs of a deceased recipient.

Make a Nomination

Nominations must be submitted online. Each individual or group nomination must have a separate nomination package. Materials that are emailed, mailed, or faxed cannot be accepted.

Step 1 – Submit Online Nomination through NEA Website

May 30, 2023 by 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

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

June 2, 2023 at 9:00 a.m., Eastern Time to June 8, 2023 by 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

Announcement of Fellowship Award

Summer of 2024

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.

A nomination will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed without work samples submitted through the Applicant Portal unless the nomination is specifically for a Bess Lomax Hawes Fellowship. At the top of the Nomination Statement, please indicate if the nominee is to be considered specifically for the Bess Lomax Hawes Fellowship.

The work samples submitted should include both recent and historical 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.

After Steps 1 and 2 have been completed, updates to the nomination package may be made June 20-23, 2023. Contact Cheryl Schiele at to schedule an appointment to make an update.

NOTE: We do not accept mailed or emailed materials.

Individuals who need assistance accessing these instructions or the associated webform may contact the Office of Accessibility at or call 202-682-5532, or the Office of Civil Rights at or 202-682-5454.

Submission Instructions        

Step 1 – Submit Online Nomination through NEA Website

Attachment 1 (mandatory): A PDF document of a nomination statement/letter that details the reasons that the nominee(s) should receive a National Heritage Fellowship. Describe the nominee's contributions to their particular artistic tradition and explain why this individual or group deserves national recognition.

Attachment 2 (optional): 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.

A complete nomination package of written materials includes a nomination statement/letter, bio/resume, and letters of support. These written materials should not exceed 20 pages in length. You may submit two additional documents in the work sample category of “other written materials.” See Step Two instructions below. We will request excess pages and work samples to be removed. 

DO NOT submit documents as Microsoft Word files. Each attachment must be a PDF and the file size limit is 1 MB (megabyte).

DO NOT embed non-printable media files (video and/or sound) in your PDF documents.

DO NOT enable any document security settings or password-protect any PDF file you submit to us.

Step 2 – Submit Statements/Letters of Support and Work Samples through Applicant Portal

In addition to the material you submit electronically through our online form in Step 1, you will upload support letters and/or work samples through the Applicant Portal. The Applicant Portal will be open beginning on June 2, 2023 at 9:00 a.m., Eastern Time. You will have until 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, on June 8, 2023, to upload, preview/check, and submit nomination work samples, support letters, and supplemental materials.

SPECIAL NOTE: Your registration (user ID and password) for access to the Applicant Portal will be created for you by NEA staff. Staff will contact you with your Applicant Portal registration information by email on the morning of June 2.

Please follow the guidelines for the work sample limits for the nomination material. The maximum number of allowable work samples is all that will be reviewed and no more than 20 minutes of combined work samples will be reviewed. A nomination package will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed without work samples, unless the nomination is specifically for a Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship.

Items to Upload through the Applicant Portal

Please upload supplemental materials and work samples in the following order:

  • Statements/Letters 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 (e.g. articles, flyers, etc.).

Work Sample Guidelines and Formats

You will be able to upload items in the formats described below.
We will accept the following:
Up to five (5) statements/letters of support in each nomination package. This does not include the nomination statement itself.

  • Do not use a font size smaller than 12 point. 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. Within each PDF, number pages sequentially; place numbers on the bottom right hand corner of each page.

Work sample guidelines:


Max # Allowed

Time Limit

File Size Limit

Format/ File Types Accepted


3 videos

5 minutes each

250 MB

PDF w/links; or avi, mov, mp4, mpeg, and wmv


5 selections

5 minutes each

5 MB

mp3, wma, wav, aac, and mpa


20 images


5 MB

PDF with images or jpeg, gif, bmp, png, and tif


2 PDF documents
12 pages each


5 MB



5 websites


5 MB

PDF with links

Note: The combined storage space for all work samples in the Applicant Portal is 250 MB. If you submit a video file of 250 MB, that will use all of the available space.

Panelists will review a combined total of no more than 20 minutes.

Uploading 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. Do not wait until the night of the deadline to begin uploading work samples. 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.

File Names and Descriptions
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 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; do not include web links):

  • For 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 they are doing or wearing, if it is unclear (e.g., wearing a red shirt).
    • Title or description of the nominee’s work or activity.
    • Date the work was 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/URL.
  • 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), or sites that require a user account.

If you upload videos:

  • File size restrictions may prohibit you from using this option.
  • To upload each file:
    • Upload the file directly into the Applicant Portal.
    • You may provide titles and short descriptions to provide context for panelists using the text box provided during the upload process.
    • If applicable, include any cue information to indicate the start of each selection.

To ensure work samples are accessible, we recommend that videos be closed or open captioned. Captioning resources:

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, 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)
Do not use a font size smaller than 12-point font. 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. Within each PDF, number pages sequentially; place numbers on the bottom right hand corner of each page. Excess pages will be removed and will not be reviewed.

Do not submit Word, PowerPoint, or Excel documents.

Additional Guidance for Websites
If you are providing more than one website for review, list all of them on a single PDF.

  • For each site, list the web address/URL 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), or sites that require a user account.
  • 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. See work sample guidelines and formats above.

Nomination Updates

New or updated information that significantly affects your nomination may be submitted June 21 - 24, 2023. Contact Cheryl Schiele at

NEA staff will work primarily with the nominator listed in the online form. Please provide the name and contact information for the nominator who will be responsible for making updates.

Deadline for Nominations

Nominations must be submitted online no later than May 30, 2023, by 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time. Fellowships will be announced in the summer of 2024.

Late, ineligible, and incomplete nominations will not be reviewed.

In the event of a major emergency (e.g., a hurricane or NEA systems technological failure), the NEA Chair may adjust application deadlines for affected nominations. If a deadline is extended for any reason, an announcement will be posted on our website.

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 Chair of the NEA. The Chair 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 a National Heritage Fellowship, a Bess Lomax Hawes Fellowship, or passes away.

Privacy Act

The following notice is furnished in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a.

This information is solicited under the authority of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, 20 U.S.C. 951 et seq. and is primarily used for the purpose of application review. Personal data, such as home address or personal cell phone number may not be released, either in entirety or in part, as exempt from disclosure under FOIA exemption (b)(6). Failure to provide the requested information could result in rejection of your application.

Paperwork Reduction Act Statement

The public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated at an average of 1 hour per response including the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. We welcome any suggestions that you might have on improving the guidelines and making them as easy to use as possible. Send comments regarding this burden estimate or any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to:, attention: Reporting Burden. Note: Applicants are not required to respond to the collection of information unless it displays a currently valid U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control number.

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