Make a Nomination

Deadline: August 3, 2017

To honor and preserve our nation's diverse cultural heritage, the National Endowment for the Arts annually awards up to eight NEA National Heritage Fellowships to master folk and traditional artists. These fellowships recognize lifetime achievement, artistic excellence, 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 NEA National Heritage Fellowship

In addition, 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 NEA National Heritage Fellowship, and all nominees will be considered for this award.

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.

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 an NEA lifetime honor award (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.

NEA National Heritage Fellowships Deadlines:

Step 1 – Submit Online Nomination through NEA Website August 3, 2017 by 5:30 p.m., Eastern Time
Step 2 – Submit Nomination Work Samples to NEA’s new applicant portal August 10, 2017 to August 17, 2017 by 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time
Earliest Announcement of Fellowship Award Summer of 2018

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

Effective nominations frame the artist’s work through quality work samples, 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 not be considered complete (nor will it be reviewed) without work samples submitted through NEA’s new 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.

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. 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.

NOTE: Submit your documents as PDF (portable document format) files. Using PDFs allows you to preserve the formatting of your documents so they can be presented to reviewers exactly as you intend. If you don’t already have software to convert files to PDF, there are many low-cost and free software packages that can do this. In the past, some nominators have printed their electronic documents and then scanned them, saving the scan in PDF format. PDFs created this way are much larger, and of lower quality, than PDFs created by the methods we recommend. 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.

Attachment 1: 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: List of up to five support letters that you will be submitting through NEA’s new applicant portal. Or, you may attach actual support letters in one document as a PDF no larger than 1 MB

Attachment 3: If the information is not included in the nomination letter, attach 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.

Step 2 – Submit Nomination Work Samples to NEA's New Applicant Portal

In addition to the material that you submit electronically through our online nomination form, you will upload the nomination’s work samples and/or support letters through the NEA’s new applicant portal.  NEA’s new applicant portal will be open for you to submit nomination work samples beginning on August 10, 2017. You will have until 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, on August 17, 2017, to upload, preview/check, and submit your nomination work samples.

NOTE: Your registration (User I.D. and Password) for access to NEA’s new applicant portal will be created for you by NEA staff.  Do not create your own registration.  NEA staff will contact you with your NEA new applicant portal registration information by email on the morning of August 10th. 

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.

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 types of items:







Max. #






Max. Time Each Sample

Panelists will review up to 20 minutes for all work samples combined

5 minutes

5 minutes

Max. Size Each Sample

250 MB for all work samples combined

250 MB

5 MB

5 MB

5 MB/Each document is limited to no more than 12 pages

5 MB

File Types

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

mp3, wma, wav, aac, mid, midi, mpa, and ra

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


PDF with links

Information About Uploaded Items

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

Title box:

This title must not contain an apostrophe (if you use one your item will not upload). Title each item with a unique name.

  • 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.

Description box:

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 Work Samples

You may submit a link to a video sample, or upload a video sample directly to NEA's new applicant portal.

If you submit a link:

Submit a PDF with a link to the website. If you are including more than one website, 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).

If you upload directly to NEA’s new applicant portal:

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

You may either combine all of your images into a single PDF file or upload each image in a separate file. If more than one image appears on a page, then each image still counts toward the maximum of 20 allowable images. Image size should be consistent; 800 x 600 pixels is suggested.

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 have to 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 including more than one website, 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).

NOTE: If you provide links to works samples - audio samples, digital images, video samples, or documents – the same limits on work samples uploaded directly to NEA's new applicant portal apply to those provided via links.

Deadline for Nominations

Nominations must be submitted online no later than August 3, 2017 by 5:30 p.m., Eastern Time. Fellowships will be announced in the summer of 2018.

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 two years unless selected.