Nominations are open for the North Carolina Heritage Award, the state’s highest honor for traditional artists, until May 2. A program of the N.C. Arts Council, the Heritage Award honors active traditional artists, recognizes artistic excellence in a traditional art, celebrates contributions to communities, and promotes North Carolina’s cultural heritage.
Artists who are recognized within their communities as keepers of North Carolina’s living traditions may be nominated for the award. Anyone can nominate a traditional artist or group of artists for a N.C. Heritage Award.
Past award recipients have included masters of such traditions as string band, gospel, balladry, and blues music; storytelling; and crafts such as pottery, basketry, blacksmithing, weaving, boatbuilding, and carving. As new traditions take root, their practitioners are nominated and the list of examples grows. To date the award has honored 144 artists—some professionally acclaimed and others who practice their art in family and community settings.
“The Heritage Awards are an opportunity to celebrate exceptional people who keep and nurture traditional creative practice. Through them, we also honor the cultural contributions of their entire communities,” said the N.C. Arts Council’s Folklife Director Zoe Van Buren. “With each new cohort, we can witness the changing seasons of our state’s dynamic cultural life, see traditions emerge and adapt, and learn how North Carolinians use the arts to know who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.”
Many Heritage Award recipients have gained national and international attention. Arthel “Doc” Watson, Earl Scruggs, Etta Baker, Ray Hicks, and 12 others have received National Heritage Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The criteria for selection are authenticity, current and past record of excellence, and significance of the work within the context of the nominees’ specific cultural tradition.
The Heritage Award ceremony and concert in the spring of 2023 will feature performances and demonstrations by the Heritage Award recipients.
Watch videos of 2018 Heritage Award recipients, the most recent year the award was given, here.
Read profiles of previous Heritage Award recipients here.
About the North Carolina Arts Council
The North Carolina Arts Council builds on our state’s long-standing love of the arts, leading the way to a more vibrant future. The Arts Council is an economic catalyst, fueling a thriving nonprofit creative sector that generates $2.12 billion in annual direct economic activity. The Arts Council also sustains diverse arts expression and traditions while investing in innovative approaches to art-making. The North Carolina Arts Council has proven to be a champion for youth by cultivating tomorrow’s creative citizens through arts education. NCArts.org
About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state's natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR's mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state's history, conserving the state's natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.
NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, three science museums, three aquariums and Jennette's Pier, 41 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C. Zoo, the N.C. Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, the African American Heritage Commission, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, and the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please visit www.ncdcr.gov.