June 20, 2003

National Endowment For The Arts Announces the 2003 Recipients of the Nation’s Highest Honor in the Folk and Traditional Arts

Washington, D.C. - The National Endowment for the Arts today announced the 2003 recipients of the NEA National Heritage Fellowships, the country’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Eleven fellowships, which include a one-time award of $20,000 each, are presented to honorees from nine states and one special jurisdiction. Sixteen awardees were chosen for their artistic excellence, authenticity, and contributions to their field. Three of the fellowships will be shared by collaborative partners. Carmencristina Moreno will receive the Bess Lomax Hawes Award for service to the folk and traditional arts field as a whole.

“We are proud to honor these master artists whose compelling work demonstrates the extraordinary diversity and depth of our nation’s cultural wealth,” said Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “These talented individuals are not only renowned practitioners of their art forms but also teachers and preservers of artistic heritages, passing on their skills and passions to future generations.”

As in years past, this group of awardees illustrates the importance of family in the folk and traditional arts with two of the fellowships awarded to father and son partnerships. In addition, many of the awardees’ work represent the union of artistic creation and occupational craft, combining beauty and utility, form and function.

2003 National Heritage Fellowship Recipients:

Rosa Elena Egipciaco, Mundillo (Puerto Rican bobbin lace) (New York, NY);
Agnes “Oshanee” Kenmille, Salish beadworker and regalia maker (Ronan, MT);
Norman Kennery, Weaver, singer, storyteller (Marshfield, VT);
Roberto and Lorenzo Martinez, Hispanic musicians (Albuquerque, NM);
Norma Miller, African American dancer, choreographer (Las Vegas, NV);
Ron Poast, Hardanger fiddle maker (Black Earth, WI);
Felipe and Joseph Ruak, Carolinian stick dance leaders (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands);
Monoochehr Sadeghi, Persian santur player, (Sherman Oaks, CA);
Nicholas Toth, Diving helmet designer/builder, (Tarpon Springs, FL);
Basque (Bertsolari) Poet;
Jesus Arriada (San Francisco, CA);
Johnny Curutchet (South San Francisco, CA);
Martin Goicoechea (Rock Springs, WY); Jesus Goni (Reno, NV)

2003 Bess Lomax Hawes Award

Carmencristina Moreno, (pictured) Mexican American singer, composer, teacher (Fresno, CA)

Carmencristina Moreno, recipient of the Bess Lomax Hawes Award, is recognized for her lifelong contribution to Mexican American musical heritage through songwriting, performing, and teaching.

Her parents were pioneering Mexican American singers in the Los Angeles area during the late 1930s and ’40s, performing as El Dueto de Los Moreno. Inspired by her parents and their friends, she also decided to pursue a career in music and performance. One of those family friends, singer and composer Lalo Guerrero, a National Heritage Fellow and National Medal of Arts recipient, instilled in the young Carmencristina the sense that music might also be used to address common concerns and aspirations of the contemporary Mexican American community.

During the post-war years, the Moreno family moved to California’s San Joaquin Valley to labor as farm workers, never giving up their musical performances. In 1976, Carmencristina gained widespread attention through her appearance on the milestone recording ¡Si Se Puede! (Yes, It Can Be Done!) for which she composed the songs “Corrido de Dolores Huerta” and “Sangre Antigüa” (Ancient Blood). Later she would write an ode to César Chávez.

She became increasingly involved in teaching broader audiences about Mexican American musical heritage. She participated in the 1993 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife, conducting workshops and performing her songs of labor and life in the Central Valley. Through a teaching program, she created Parallel Histories of the United States and Mexico through Music and has conducted classes in schools throughout the region. In 2001 she was given the Horizon Award by the Fresno Arts Council in recognition of her lifetime of work as an educator and performer

These honorees join the ranks of previous Heritage Fellows, including bluesman B.B. King, Irish stepdancer Michael Flatley, cowboy poet Wally McRae and acclaimed performers Shirley Caesar, Doc Watson and Bill Monroe. Since 1982, the Endowment has awarded more than 260 National Heritage Fellowships. Recipients are nominated, often by members of their own communities, and then judged by a panel on the basis of their continuing artistic accomplishments and contributions as practitioners or teachers. Fellows must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States.

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