2021 National Heritage Fellows Celebrated in The Culture of America’s Debut Film


The National Foundation for the Arts, in partnership with the National Council of Traditional Arts, will present American Culture: A Tour Across The Country with the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows 2021, Wednesday, November 17, 2021 at 8 p.m. ET. Emmy Award-winning actor Jimmy Smits will host the film and take viewers on a virtual journey through the country where this year’s National Heritage Fellows live and work. The pre-recorded virtual presentation will be webcast free of charge to the public at arts.gov.

Recognizing artistic excellence and contributions to our nation’s traditional artistic heritage, the National Heritage Fellowship is our nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts. “The traditions of these culture bearers are shared in this film as stories of community, unity and individual pride in one’s heritage,” said Ann Eilers, Interim President of the National Endowment for the Arts. “The diverse art forms of the National Heritage Fellows invite us to understand and appreciate the experiences of the past and allow us to envision a bright future where culture is the foundation of us and new ideas take root.”

During the hour-long film, viewers:

  • Listen to the music of Cedric Burnside as the rhythm of Hill Country Blues vibrates through the neighborhoods of northern Mississippi. Burnside credits his family before him with the knowledge and encouragement to continue playing and writing music as he passes the tradition on to the next generation through his daughter.

  • Join Tagumpay Mendoza De Leon and his Rondalla Club in Los Angeles to discover how rondalla music from the Philippines connects the Filipino American community with one another. “Uncle Pi” has been teaching rondalla for 20 years, helping his students get to know each other and discover their Filipino culture.

  • Connect with the essence of the Osage people as Anita Fields (Osage / Muscogee) shares the work of the Osage ribbon and how her creative works have contemporary influences while paying homage to ancestors.

  • Take a trip down memory lane with Los Lobos as the band members reminisce about their early days in East Los Angeles, California, and the folk musical influences that are ingrained in their music, which are the source of the band’s sound today. ‘hui.

  • Meet Joanie Madden at her home in the Irish American neighborhood of Yonkers, New York, to learn more about her love of music which has been passed down through her family and which she continues to share through her band, Cherish the Ladies, who plays traditional Irish. music for audiences around the world.

  • Explore Chicago, Illinois with Reginald “Reggio The Hoofer” McLaughlin as he weaves his way through the park, on the subway, on bridges and on the streets. McLaughlin’s infectious energy and love of dance conveys a joy that will thrill viewers.

  • Connect with Nellie Vera Sánchez in Moca, Puerto Rico, where the intricate bobbin lace practice of mundillo couture has a long history. Vera shares patterns and designs that were lovingly taught to her and how she continues to pass this art form on.

  • Experience the ritual of Easter rock as the Winnsboro Easter Rock Ensemble of Louisiana maintains the African-American tradition that combines music and food with Christian and West African influences.

  • Visit Tom Davenport at his home in Delaplane, Va., As he shares the importance of documenting history through cinema and how he created Folkstreams, a free independent movie streaming platform, as a medium to share traditional American cultures with the world. Davenport is the 2021 recipient of the Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship, awarded in recognition of an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage.

Jimmy Smits is known for his roles in the NYPD Blue and The West Wing television series and more recently in the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical In the Heights. Co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, Smits is being hailed for his impact as a Latinx actor and for advancing Latinx artists’ access to the media.

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag # NEAHeritage21. America’s Culture: A Cross-Country Tour with 2021 NEA National Heritage Fellows will continue to be available to watch on arts.gov after the November 17th debut.

About national heritage scholarships

The National Heritage Fellowships are the nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts. Including Class 2021, the Arts Endowment awarded 458 National Heritage Scholarships, recognizing artists working in more than 200 distinct art forms, including Japanese classical dancer Gertrude Yukie Tsutsumi, musician and singer Tejano Manuel “Cowboy” Donley , Passamaquoddy basket maker Molly Neptune Parker, leatherworker James F. Jackson, oud player and songwriter Rahim AlHaj and quilter community lawyer Carolyn Mazloomi. More information on National Heritage Fellows is available on the Foundation for the Arts website.

About the National Foundation for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support empowers Americans to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative abilities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the America and is expanding its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more.


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