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NEA Announces 2021 National Heritage Fellowship Winners

The Mexican-American band Los Lobos, newly named as National Heritage Fellows.
Piero F. Giunti
Courtesy of the artists
The Mexican-American band Los Lobos, newly named as National Heritage Fellows.

On Tuesday, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced its newest class of National Heritage fellows: 9 individuals and groups who represent the richness and breadth of America's folk and traditional arts.

This year's class of fellows includes artists and creators from African-American, Mexican-American, Native, Filipino, Irish-American and Puerto Rican backgrounds, whose array of mediums span many kinds of music, ribbon and lace work, tap dance and filmmaking.

Two women who specialize in textile creations are being honored. Anita Fields is an Osage multidisciplinary artist from Tulsa, Okla., who uses both traditional Osage ribbon work and clay. Nellie Vera Sánchez, from Moca, Puerto Rico, is a master of mundillo, an intricate bobbin-woven lace.

Several musicians and groups were inducted among this year's honorees. The best-known are the Mexican-American band Los Lobos, from Los Angeles, who are cited for having "the East Los Angeles sonic landscape for nearly a half century," and the Irish-American flute and whistle player Joanie Madden from Yonkers, N.Y., who is the founder of the group Cherish the Ladies.

The other musicians inducted this year are blues guitarist, drummer, singer and songwriter Cedric Burnside of Ashland, Miss., and Tagumpay De Leon, a Filipino-born multi-instrumentalist from Burbank, Calif., who specializes in rondalla, a traditional Spanish-influenced style from the Philippines.

A tap dancer from Chicago, Reginald "Reggio the Hoofer" McLaughlin, is another of this year's inductees. He began his career dancing in the city's subways, building from there by nurturing his tradition and sharing it with audiences.

The Winnsboro Easter Rock Ensemble from Winnsboro, La., are the last known practitioners of a female-led spiritual and artistic tradition that combines Christian religious practice with West African ring-shout ritual—a practice that has been documented only in the Northeast Louisiana Delta region.

Tom Davenport is a filmmaker, documentarian and media curator from Delaplane, Va. He is the founder and director of the non-profit organization Folkstreams, which focuses on preserving and showing documentary films on American traditional cultures.

The honor includes a $25,000 award per recipient. Due to the pandemic, no live ceremony will be held to celebrate this year's fellows. Instead, the NEA plans to stream a virtual event on Nov. 17.

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Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.