Submit a National Heritage Fellowship Nomination

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The NEA National Heritage Fellowship is the nation's highest honor in folk and traditional arts. Each year since 1982, the program has recognized folk and traditional artists whose exemplary achievements contribute to our nation's distinctive cultural heritage, increasing opportunities for the public to encounter different artists, art forms, and cultural traditions.

Annually, the NEA awards at least nine National Heritage Fellowships, including one Bess Lomax Hawes Fellowship (described below). Through their folk and traditional arts practices, National Heritage Fellows demonstrate the importance of the arts to personal, cultural, and national identity and reflect the benefits that artful lives contribute to the well-being of individuals and their 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 traditional arts, their 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.


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. To date, the NEA has awarded 477 National Heritage Fellowships to individuals and groups representing more than 200 distinct art forms. Recipients include bluegrass fiddler Michael Cleveland; Japanese classical dancer Gertrude Yukie Tsutsumi; Haudenosaunee raised beadworker Karen Ann Hoffman (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin); oud player and composer Rahim AlHaj; brass band group Excelsior Band of Mobile, Alabama; and radio producer and radio network builder Hugo N. Morales.

We welcome nominations that reflect the rich diversity of perspectives of all artists engaged in the folk and traditional arts. Previous fellowships comprise a gender ratio of 2 to 1, men to women. As a result, we encourage nominations of underrepresented groups, including women, for consideration in the panel review process. See a list of previously awarded fellows.

Nomination Requirements

Recipients will be selected from of nominations by the public. Nominations may be for an individual or 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 of 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 award 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 28, 2024, by 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

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

May 31, 2024, at 9:00 a.m., Eastern Time to June 6, 2024, by 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time

Announcement of Fellowship Award

Summer of 2025

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 artistic genre or cultural tradition, 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 complete nomination package consists of two parts: the online nomination form submitted through the NEA website, and the work samples and support letters submitted through the Applicant Portal. A nomination will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed unless both parts are submitted. Work samples are required for all nominations 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 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 videos 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 18-21, 2024. Contact Cheryl Schiele at to schedule an appointment to make an update.

NOTE: We do not accept mailed, emailed, or faxed 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.

Review of Nominations

The selection criteria are artistic excellence and artistic merit, including 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 or passes away.

Submission Instructions

A complete nomination package is submitted in two steps. Instructions for each step are listed below. Step one consists of submitting a nomination statement/letter and a bio of the nominated artist/group through the online nomination form on the NEA website. In step two, up to five additional letters of support and up to 20 minutes’ worth of artist/group’s work samples will be submitted through the NEA Applicant Portal. The written materials (nomination statement, bio, and letters of support) should total no more than 20 pages. Excess pages will be removed or otherwise not reviewed.

Step 1 – Submit Online Nomination through the NEA Website

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

Attachment 2 (optional): If the information is not already included in the nomination letter, please attach a PDF document of a résumé or short biography outlining 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 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 for or password-protect any PDF file you submit to us.

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

You will upload supplemental materials such as letters of support and work samples through the Applicant Portal. The Applicant Portal will be open beginning on May 31, 2024, at 9:00 a.m., Eastern Time. You will have until 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, on June 6, 2024, to upload, preview/check, and submit nomination work samples, support letters, and other supplemental materials (e.g., photos, fliers, programs, etc.).

SPECIAL NOTE: Your registration (user ID and password) for access to the Applicant Portal will be created for you by NEA staff. Staff will send your Applicant Portal registration information by email on May 31, 2024.

Follow the instructions on 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 without work samples is considered incomplete and will not be reviewed, 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 any work samples in the following order:

  • Statements/Letters of Support (combine all letters into one PDF document);
  • Video Work Samples;
  • Audio Work Samples;
  • Image Work Samples (combine all images into one PDF document);
  • Other Types of Work Samples (e.g. articles, flyers, etc.).

Supplementary Materials and Formats

You will be able to upload supplemental materials in the formats described below. We will accept the following:

Letters of Support

Up to five (5) statements/letters of support in each nomination package. This does not include the nomination statement itself, which is submitted in step one.

  • 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 the pages sequentially; place numbers on the bottom right hand corner of each page.

Work Samples

Up to 20 minutes of combined work samples in any of the following formats.


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 of work samples.

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 can take five to ten minutes. However, close to the deadline, it can take as long as an hour for videos to upload. Do not wait until the day of the deadline to begin uploading work samples. All videos are placed in a single queue on the Applicant Portal to be converted for upload, and the more people uploading samples in support of their applications, the longer the overall 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 and the name(s) of the supporter(s). (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 or Jane Doe).

Description box (500-character limit, including spaces; do not include web links):

  • For statements of support, simply enter “statements of support”.
  • For video/audio/digital image/website/document work samples:
    • Name of the nominee featured. Describe what the nominee is doing or wearing, if it is unclear which person in the work sample is the nominee (e.g., Jane Doe is 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 in a PDF should include the relevant information as listed above for each website or image in the PDF. The description box 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 in a single PDF.
  • For each site, list the direct 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, such as social media sites.

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 (e.g., Jane Doe’s performance of “This Little Light of Mine” starts at 8:31).

To ensure work samples are accessible to reviewers with disabilities, 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 then 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 in a single PDF.

  • For each site, list the direct 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, such as social media sites.
  • 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 18-21, 2024. Contact Cheryl Schiele at if you need to update your nomination.

NEA staff will work primarily with the nominator listed in the online form submitted in Step 1. Please provide the name and contact information for the nominator responsible for making updates.

Deadline for Nominations

Nominations must be submitted online no later than May 28, 2024, 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.

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 the Freedom of Information Act. 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.

OMB No. 3135-0112 Expires 10/31/2025