In 1982 the National Endowment for the Arts established the NEA National Heritage Awards as a way of honoring American folk artists for their contributions to our national cultural mosaic. Modelled after the Japanese "National Living Treasures" concept, the idea began with Bess Lomax Hawes, then director of the Folk Arts Program. Since its inception, over 200 artists have received the Heritage Award.
As a group, these folk and traditional artists reflect the diverse heritage and cultural traditions that transcend their beginnings to become part of our national character. Americans all, they bring age-old customs, crafts and ways of living to the flux of American life, a pluralism that makes us strong and defines us, in the words of Walt Whitman, as "not merely a nation but a teeming nation of nations."
Added by cgraci on August 13, 2005