The American Folklife Center (AFC) is proud to announce a new research guide, which highlights AFC collections related to the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. The National Heritage Fellowship is the highest honor for the traditional arts in the United States. Since 1982, the award has recognized lifetime achievement among traditional artists and advocates for the traditional arts.The research guide shows that the American Folklife Center is an important repository for materials related to the National Heritage Fellowship. The guide provides access to over 450 collections with materials from Fellowship awardees. It links to over seventy AFC public programs (concerts, lectures, and oral history interviews) featuring Fellowship recipients. The guide highlights several collections of administrative documents and correspondence related to the National Heritage Fellowship, including the collection of Bess Lomax Hawes. Hawes was the first administrator of the National Heritage Fellowship at the National Endowment for the Arts. The guide also lists important resources, such as podcast interviews with NEA National Heritage Fellowship recipients, available outside the Library of Congress. The intention of the guide is to celebrate the achievements of National Heritage Fellows, to encourage further research about their contributions, and to make National Heritage Fellowship administrative collections more accessible to the public.
Several notable items appear in the research guide. For example, the collections subpage lists a performance and interview with Dakota flute maker and musician, Bryan Akipa—a 2016 recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship. Collections made by Fellowship recipients Nancy Sweezy, Nick Spitzer, and Bobby Fulcher are also featured. The concerts subpage features a fantastic performance by the Singing and Praying Bands of Maryland and Delaware, a 2014 recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship. The subpage listing oral history interviews features a conversation between Roy and PJ Hirabayashi of San Jose Taiko, who received the Fellowship in 2011, and Daniel Sheehy, a 2015 recipient. Finally, the subpage highlighting blog posts features a wonderful homage to Irish musician and 2016 National Heritage Fellowship recipient Billy McComiskey, written by AFC Folklife Specialist Steve Winick. We hope you’ll find your own favorite materials in this vast collection.
On Friday, September 29, 2023, the American Folklife Center will be hosting a public ceremony to honor the 2023 recipients of the National Heritage Fellowship. Awardees of the 2020, 2021, and 2022 National Heritage Fellowship will also be celebrated, as the COVID-19 pandemic inhibited their in-person recognition. The ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will take place at the Coolidge Auditorium in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. To learn more information about the ceremony (and to find the livestream link if you can’t make it to the Library), please visit the Library of Congress calendar listing at this link. To see the 2023 recipients of the National Heritage Fellowship, visit the website of the National Endowment for the Arts.