Free Events Celebrate Our Nation’s Master Folk and Traditional Artists

Events to Take Place in Washington, DC September 14–15, 2017 and streamed online

Washington, DC—This September, the National Endowment for the Arts will continue its 35-year tradition of celebrating our nation’s master folk and traditional artists, in what has become an annual anticipated event and an opportunity to learn more about our country’s many diverse art forms. The nine 2017 NEA National Heritage Fellows will be honored at an awards ceremony on Thursday, September 14, 2017 and at a free concert on Friday, September 15, hosted by Martha Gonzalez of the Grammy Award-winning band Quetzal, and featuring music, dance, and craft demonstrations by the fellows and other special guests. The concert will also be available through a live web stream at

The NEA National Heritage Fellowships are the highest honor given by the federal government in the folk and traditional arts. Each year the National Endowment for the Arts honors a select number of artists for their artistic accomplishments and efforts to share their knowledge with the next generation. The 2017 NEA National Heritage Fellows are:

  • Norik Astvatsaturov – Armenian Repoussé Metal Artist from Wahpeton, ND
  • Anna Brown Ehlers – Chilkat Weaver from Juneau, AK
  • Modesto Cepeda – Bomba and Plena Musician from San Juan, PR
  • Ella Jenkins* – Children’s Folk Singer and Musician from Chicago, IL
  • Dwight Lamb – Danish Button Accordionist and Missouri-Style Fiddler from Onawa, IA (Bess Lomax Hawes Award)
  • Thomas Maupin – Old-time Buckdancer from Murfreesboro, TN
  • Cyril Pahinui* – Hawaiian Slack Key Guitarist from Waipahu, HI
  • Phil Wiggins – Acoustic Blues Harmonica Player from Takoma Park, MD
  • Eva Ybarra – Conjunto Accordionist and Bandleader from San Antonio, TX

* Artists will not be in attendance at the events.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu and members of Congress will honor the 2017 NEA National Heritage Fellows at an awards ceremony on Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. ET in the Library of Congress's Coolidge Auditorium in the Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First Street SE in Washington, DC. The ceremony will include a presentation of medals and short remarks by the recipients in attendance. Following the ceremony, there will be a reception with the artists in the Library of Congress’s Great Hall Mezzanine. This event is open to the public and no tickets are required.

The NEA National Heritage Fellowships Concert will take place Friday, September 15, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. ET at the George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium. Hosted by Martha Gonzalez, the concert will feature many of the 2017 Heritage Fellows performing with their bands, such as Phil Wiggins – a Washington, DC native – performing with the Chesapeake Sheiks and Eva Ybarra’s band Eva Ybarra y Su Conjunto, as well as other performances by the fellows with their apprentices.

Attend the concert in person:
Beginning August 16 at 10:00 a.m., free tickets to the concert can be reserved online at or in person at the George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium Box Office at 730 21st Street NW in Washington, DC, and the House of Musical Traditions at 7010 Westmoreland Avenue in Takoma Park, Maryland. PLEASE NOTE: Ticket-holders should arrive by 7:45 p.m. At that time, all unclaimed tickets will be released to those in the stand-by line.

Watch the live concert webcast:
The concert will be live streamed at beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET on September 15. Viewers can share their thoughts about the Heritage Fellows celebration on Twitter using the hashtag #NEAHeritage17.

In addition, the 2017 Heritage Fellows will be spotlighted in an episode of public radio's American Routes the week of Thanksgiving. The episode will feature performances from the concert and interviews with the artists as well as music and conversations with previous recipients of NEA National Heritage Fellowships. For more information, go to in November 2017.

Members of the media who wish to attend the awards ceremony, concert, or request video or photographs from either event should contact Liz Auclair at

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. Visit to learn more about NEA.


Liz Auclair, 202-682-5744,