Virtual Event on March 4, 2021, Showcases 2020 National Heritage Fellows

Photos of the 2020 National Heritage Fellows

2020 National Heritage Fellows (clockwise from top left): William Bell (photo by David McClister), Onnik Dinkjian (photo courtesy of artist), Zakarya and Naomi Diouf (photos © RJ Muna), Karen Ann Hoffman (photo by Jim), Wayne Valliere (photo by Tim Frandy), Suni Paz (photo by Ramiro Fauve), John Morris (photo by Michael Keller), Hugo N. Morales (photo courtesy of Radio Bilingüe), and Los Matachines de la Santa Cruz de la Ladrillera (photo by Norma E. Cantú).

Washington, DC— The National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with the National Council for the Traditional Arts, will present “The Culture of America: A Cross-Country Visit with the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows,” on March 4, 2021 at 8:00 pm ET. Join storyteller Queen Nur as she hosts a virtual trip across the country, taking viewers into the homes and communities where the 2020 National Heritage Fellows live and create. The pre-recorded virtual presentation will be webcast free to the public at No RSVP needed.

The National Heritage Fellowship is our nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, which recognizes the recipients’ artistic excellence and supports their continuing contributions to our nation’s traditional arts heritage. “Like many 2020 performances, our annual Heritage Fellowships concert has been re-imagined as a virtual event. The National Endowment for the Arts is delighted to present a production that will directly connect audiences across the nation with the fellows and the rich cultures they represent and the distinct art forms they practice,” said Arts Endowment Acting Chairman Ann Eilers.

As part of this one-hour presentation, viewers can:

  • Hear the soul music of William Bell (Atlanta, Georgia)—one of the first artists to sign with Stax Records in the 1960s—and learn more about his efforts to mentor the next generation of songwriters and musicians.
  • Meet Onnik Dinkjian (Fort Lee, New Jersey), a performer of traditional Armenian folk and liturgical songs, and one of the last remaining Armenians who speaks and understands the Armenian dialect from Dikranagerd.
  • Connect with the vibrant music and dance of Zakarya and Naomi Diouf’s Oakland, California-based Diamano Coura West African Dance Company, which since 1975 has taught the traditions of the African diaspora through dance. 
  • Visit the Stevens Point, Wisconsin, home of Karen Ann Hoffman (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin), as she demonstrates the distinctive Haudenosaunee Raised Beadwork, and learn about her efforts to use this tradition to respond to contemporary issues.
  • Explore the tradition of Los Matachines de la Santa Cruz de la Ladrillera, traditional religious dancers from Laredo, Texas, who honor the Holy Cross on May 3rd and the Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12th in a ceremony that is well over a century old with its blend of Indigenous and European cultural expressions.
  • Learn about what inspired Hugo N. Morales (Fresno, California) to create the Radio Bilingüe radio network—the leading Latino public radio network and content producer in U.S. public media and a curator of Latino culture through radio series and festivals. (Morales is the 2020 recipient of the Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship, presented in recognition of an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage.)
  • Meet John Morris, a living carrier of the old-time fiddle and banjo music of Clay County, West Virginia, whose family launched old-time music festivals across the state and region in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and who continues to mentor musicians in this tradition. 
  • Listen to the music of Suni Paz (Henderson, Nevada), a songwriter and performer of Latin American folk music who has engaged people of all backgrounds and ages in her efforts to express life’s message through song.
  • Watch as Wayne Valliere (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) (Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin)—one of only a handful of Native birchbark canoe builders today in the United States—shares his craft, highlighting its significance in the Anishinaabe culture.

You can join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #NEAHeritage20.

About the National Heritage Fellowships
The National Heritage Fellowships are the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Including the 2020 class, the Arts Endowment has awarded 449 National Heritage Fellowships, recognizing 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. For more information about the National Heritage Fellowships and to nominate someone for this award, visit the Arts Endowment website

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts 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 Arts Endowment 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 the National Council for the Traditional Arts

Founded in 1933, the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) is the nation's oldest folk arts organization. The NCTA presents the nation's finest traditional artists to the public in festivals, national and international tours, concerts, radio and television programs, films, recordings and other programs. For over 30 years, the NCTA has worked with the National Endowment for the Arts on a consulting basis to manage and coordinate the annual week of activities in Washington, DC honoring the Fellowship recipients.


Liz Auclair

Allison Hill