NEA Announces Recipients of Nation’s Highest Award in the Folk and Traditional Arts

2015 NEA National Heritage Fellows will be honored at awards ceremony and free concert in Washington, DC, on October 1-2, 2015
Headshots of the 2015 NEA National Heritage Fellows
Top row, left to right: Drink Small, Sidonka Wadina, Yary Livan, Rahim AlHaj, Gertrude Yukie Tsutsumi. Bottom row, left to right: Michael Alpert, Dolly Jacobs, Mary Lee Bendolph, Loretta Pettway, Lucy Mingo, and Dan Sheehy.
Washington, DC—One of the strengths of our nation is our constantly evolving artistic landscape. Each year the National Endowment for the Arts celebrates master folk and traditional artists that embody this strength and diversity of culture. The recipients of this year’s NEA National Heritage Fellowships represent art forms ranging from those born and bred in the United States – such as the quilters of Gee’s Bend from Alabama – to those that are newer to our country – such as the oud playing of Rahim AlHaj, who immigrated to the United States from Baghdad. The fellowships include an award of $25,000. “The art forms represented in this year’s class of National Heritage Fellows are wide-ranging,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Not surprisingly, the artists have a common bond in their efforts to both share their art forms within their communities and across the nation, while also ensuring their art forms are passed along to the next generation through teaching and mentoring. I look forward to celebrating these talented artists, their commitment, and their artistry in Washington, DC, next fall.”  The 2015 NEA National Heritage Fellowship recipients are: *Daniel Sheehy is the recipient of the Bess Lomax Hawes NEA National Heritage Fellowship Award. The Bess Lomax Hawes Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage. Profiles of the artists are available in the Lifetime Honors section of the NEA’s website, along with photos and audio and video samples of their work. With the announcement of the 2015 class, the NEA has awarded 404 National Heritage Fellowships, recognizing master artists working in more than 200 distinct art forms, including bluesman B.B. King, Cajun fiddler and composer Michael Doucet, sweetgrass basketweaver Mary Jackson, cowboy poet Wally McRae, Kathak dancer and choreographer Chitresh Das, and gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples. Fall Events in Washington, DC The 2015 National Heritage Fellows will be honored in Washington, DC, at an awards ceremony at the Library of Congress on Thursday, October 1, 2015 and a free concert on Friday, October 2, 2015 at 8:00 p.m. at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium. Both events are free and open to the public. Concert tickets are first come, first served and will be available later this summer. The concert will also be webcast live at More information about these events will be available this fall. About the NEA National Heritage Fellowships For more information on the NEA's National Heritage Fellowships, including bios, interviews, and audio selections for the Heritage Fellows; portraits by Tom Pich of more than 170 Fellows in their homes, studios, and at sites that most vividly reflect the essence of their artwork; and publications such as a 30th anniversary publication, and a Masters of Traditional Arts Education Guide, visit Nominations for the 2016 NEA National Heritage Fellowships The NEA is currently accepting nominations for the 2016 class of NEA National Heritage Fellowships. The deadline is July 16, 2015. Visit the NEA's website for more information and to submit a nomination. About the National Endowment for the Arts Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America.  Photo credits: Careese Digital Photography, Michele Kieweg, Adrien Bisson, Jim Gale, Kenneth Photography, Avia Moore, Barbara Banks, David Raccuglia, Matt Arnett, Ashlee Duncan/Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage


Liz Auclair,, 202-682-5744