The annual National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowships began in 1982 to honor the excellence of folk artists who represent diverse communities throughout the United States. The portraits in this gallery portray artists who have mastered their art forms through years of study with elders and family members. They are also active teachers of their traditions. The gallery features life-‐sized photographs by folklorist and photographer Alan Govenar. This fall Local Learning will launch a portal featuring Heritage Fellows’ portraits on our website as inspiration for learning to make photographic portraits of local masters of traditional arts in students’ lives.
Although cultural groups different from our own may appear exotic or hard to understand, all cultural groups share common ways of life that call for ritual, celebration, custom, music, crafts, dance, food, stories and special language—in other words, folklore. Activities in this gallery provide tools to read photographs as text, address cultural assumptions, and discover new traditions and artists.
Traditions are not frozen in time but are alive and part of an ongoing process. To be a master is to be creative. National Heritage Fellows are teachers in their families and communities, passing on their complex, hard-won skills and knowledge.
Below are three websites that creatively present the lives and artistry of this unique group of American master artists.
- Find profiles of all the Heritage Fellows and the webcast of the 2014 concert on the NEA website http://arts.gov/honors/heritage.
- Experience virtual artist residencies with Heritage Fellows on the Local Learning website http://locallearningnetwork.org/guest-‐artist
- Explore the online Masters of Traditional Arts Education Guide, by Paddy Bowman and Alan Govenar, featuring lessons, activities, and multimedia clips of Heritage Fellows. www.mastersoftraditionalarts.org.
Alan Govenar is director of Documentary Arts in Dallas and New York City, and Paddy Bowman directs Local Learning.