Make a Nomination


Deadline: July 16, 2015

Nominations are now closed.

To honor and preserve our nation's diverse cultural heritage, the National Endowment for the Arts annually awards up to eight NEA National Heritage Fellowships to master folk and traditional artists. These fellowships recognize lifetime achievement, artistic excellence, and contributions to our nation's traditional arts heritage..

The folk and traditional arts, which include crafts, dance, music, oral traditions, visual arts, and others, are those that are learned as part of the cultural life of a community whose members share a common ethnic heritage, cultural mores, language, religion, occupation, or geographic region. These traditions are shaped by the aesthetics and values of a shared culture and are passed from generation to generation, most often within family and community through observation, conversation, and practice.

Nominees must be worthy of national recognition and have a record of continuing artistic accomplishment. They must be actively participating in their art form, either as practitioners or as teachers.

In addition, one NEA National Heritage Fellowship will be given to an individual who has made major contributions to the excellence, vitality, and public appreciation of the folk and traditional arts. The nominee should be worthy of national recognition and must be actively engaged in perpetuating the folk and traditional arts. Named after the influential advocate, educator, and producer of the folk and traditional arts, Bess Lomax Hawes, this award recognizes:

  • An artist whose contributions, primarily through teaching, advocacy, organizing, and maintaining important repertoires, have greatly benefited their artistic tradition.
  • An individual such as a producer or advocate whose efforts have significantly increased opportunities for and public visibility of traditional arts and artists.

Recipients will be selected on the basis of nominations from the public. Nominations may be for an individual or for a group of individuals (e.g., a duo, but not an incorporated organization). Nominees must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Posthumous nominations or awards will not be considered. Individuals who have previously received an NEA lifetime honor award (National Heritage Fellowship, Jazz Masters Fellowship, or an Opera Honor) are not eligible.

Awards will be up to $25,000 and may be received once in a lifetime. No payment will be made to the estate or heirs of a deceased recipient.

How to Submit a Nomination

Nominations are accepted by using our online nomination form. Please see the description of a complete nomination package below. Individuals may be nominated specifically for the Bess Lomax Hawes NEA National Heritage Fellowship, and all nominees will be considered for this award.  Your nomination package will not be considered complete or reviewed without work samples, unless the nomination is specifically for a Bess Lomax Hawes Fellowship.

An individual may submit one or more nomination(s) in each round of the NEA National Heritage Fellowships and no one may nominate him/herself.

A complete package should not exceed 20 pages in length. Excess pages will be removed and not be reviewed. Each nomination should have a separate nomination package.

You may submit your documents as PDF (portable document format) files electronically. Or, you have the option of submitting these items in an email to Specific instructions are outlined below.

Submitting Website Nomination Material

The following attachments may be attached to the online nomination form to comprise a complete nomination package. Each attachment file size limit is 1 MB (megabyte).

Using PDFs allows you to preserve the formatting of your documents so they can be presented to reviewers exactly as you intend. If you don’t already have software to convert files to PDF, there are many low-cost and free software packages that can do this. In the past, some nominators have printed their electronic documents and then scanned them, saving the scan in PDF format. PDFs created this way are much larger, and of lower quality, than PDFs created by the methods we recommend. Do not embed non-printable media files (video and/or sound) in your PDF documents. Static images (e.g., pictures) are acceptable. Please do not enable any document security settings or password-protect any PDF file you submit to us.

Attachment 1: A nomination statement/letter that details the reasons that the nominee(s) should receive an NEA National Heritage Fellowship. Describe the nominee's contributions to his or her particular artistic tradition and explain why this individual or group deserves national recognition.

Attachment 2: List of a maximum of five support letters that you will be emailing directly to the Arts Endowment. Or, you may attach actual support letters in one document as a PDF no larger than 1 MB.

Attachment 3: If the information is not included in the nomination letter, attach a résumé or short biography that outlines the career of the nominee(s), a list of major public appearances or exhibitions by the nominee(s), and the titles of published works, if any.


Submitting Electronic Nomination Work Samples

In addition to the material that you submit electronically through our online nomination form, you will upload the nominations work samples directly to the Arts Endowment NEA-GO system.  Please label all materials with the name of the nominee and your name.

Nomination work samples will be uploaded electronically through the NEA GrantsOnlineTM System (NEA-GO).

NEA-GO is being administered for the NEA by the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF).

All work samples will be submitted electronically as attachments through the NEA GrantsOnline™ System (NEA-GO).

Details on how to prepare your work samples for upload are in these guidelines.

NOTE: Your registration (User I.D. and Password) for access to NEA-GO will be created for you by NEA staff.  Do not create your own registration.  NEA staff will contact you with your NEA-GO registration information by e-mail. 

NEA-GO will be open for you to submit nomination work samples beginning on July 29, 2015. You will have until 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, on August 5, 2015, to upload, preview/check, and submit your nomination work samples.


Submitting Work Samples

Follow the instructions for the work sample limits for your nomination material. That is the maximum amount of your work samples that may be seen or heard.

Your work samples should include recent and high quality examples of the nominee’s work. Your nomination package will not be considered complete or reviewed without work samples, unless the nomination is specifically for a Bess Lomax Hawes Fellowship.


Acceptable Work Sample Formats

You will be able to upload items in the formats described below. There is a limit of 250 MB for all of your items combined.

We will accept the following types of items:

Documents (Publications, Articles)

Each file has a size limit of 5 MB and 12 pages, and must be submitted as a PDF file. Do not submit items in Word or Excel format. Leave a margin of at least one inch at the top, bottom, and sides of all pages. Use only 8.5 x 11 inch size pages. Do not reduce type below 12 point font size. Within each PDF, number pages sequentially; place numbers on the bottom right hand corner of each page. Excess pages will be removed and not be reviewed.

If you have to scan material, please follow the guidance below:

Scan images at a resolution of 300 dpi. Resolutions over 300 dpi will result in unnecessarily large files.

Experiment with the JPEG quality settings. Saving the document as a "medium quality" or "low quality" JPEG will reduce the file size, and is not likely to reduce readability.

When you have scanned the images, combine them into a single PDF file. Submit a single file for each document; do not submit a separate file for each scanned page.

Audio Samples

Submit no more than five selections; each selection should not exceed five minutes. You will upload each selection in a separate file. Each file has a size limit of 5 MB. Acceptable file types are mp3, wma, wav, aac, mid, midi, mpa, and ra.

Digital images

Submit no more than 20 images. You may either combine all of your images into a single PDF file or upload each image in a separate file. Image size should be consistent; 800 x 600 pixels is suggested. Each image/file has a size limit of 5 MB. Acceptable file types are jpeg, gif, bmp, png, and tif. Do not submit PowerPoint documents.

Video Samples

Submit no more than three selections; each selection should not exceed five minutes.

You may submit a link to a video sample, or upload a video sample directly to NEA-GO. We recommend uploading your work samples directly.

If you submit a link:

Submit a PDF with a link to the website. If you are including more than one website, submit no more than three and list them all on a single PDF. For each site, list the URLs for pages to be shown; include any necessary information on required plug-ins, passwords, or navigation paths. Do not submit links to sites that require work samples to be downloaded (e.g., Dropbox). Do not submit Word documents.

If you upload directly to NEA-GO:

Acceptable file types are avi, flv, mov, mp4, mpeg, rm, and wmv. Your video sample must be in one of these acceptable file types. File types such as VIDEO_TS.BUP, VIDEO_TS.IFO, and VIDEO_TS.VOB will not work.

In order to be uploaded, videos must meet the following minimum requirements:

Resolution: At least 480 x 360

Frames per second (fps): At least 12

You can often check the resolution of a video as follows. In Windows environments, find the file on your computer, right click it, and select "Properties."  On a Mac, hold the Control key, and click on the file name. Select "Get Info" and the information should display. Most videos are a standard 29 frames per second.  

While the above requirements are the minimum, submitting your video in the mp4 (H.264) format at 640 x 480 with mp3 audio will allow for efficient uploading while showing your clips to best advantage. There is a file size limit of 250 MB. (Note, however, that there is a limit of 250 MB for all of your work samples combined so choose your video samples carefully.)

If your video doesn't meet the minimum resolution requirements above, there are a number of software programs you can use to convert your video.

If you are submitting more than one video sample, you will upload each individually, in a separate file.


Information About Uploaded Items

For each item that you upload, you will find a descriptive field into which you will enter the following information, as appropriate:

Title box:

This title must not contain an apostrophe (if you use one your item will not upload). Title each item with a unique name.

For video/audio/digital image/document work samples, state the title of the work or the nominee represented by the work sample.

Description box:

For video/audio/digital image/document work samples:

Nominee (describe what he/she is doing or wearing, if it is unclear (i.e. wearing a red shirt).

Title of work/image/activity (if different from first bullet).

Date work created/performed.

Brief description including of the work sample, if necessary.

For audio and video, length of the sample. (Five minutes is the maximum for audio and video.)

Nominators submitting multiple images on a PDF should include the relevant information from above with each website or image in the PDF. The descriptive field for the file should provide a brief overview of the group of images or websites as a whole.

Deadline for Nominations

Nominations must be submitted online no later than 5:30 p.m., July 16, 2015. Fellowships will be announced in the summer of 2016.

Review of Nominations

The selection criteria are artistic excellence, significance within the particular artistic tradition, and contributions to living cultural heritage.

Nominations are reviewed by an advisory panel of folk and traditional arts experts and at least one knowledgeable layperson. Panel recommendations are forwarded to the National Council on the Arts, which then makes recommendations to the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. The Chairman reviews the Council's recommendations and makes the final decision on all the award recipients.

Nominations remain active for a total of two years unless selected.