NEA proposes a new American Artists of the Year award
The National Endowment for the Arts has proposed eliminating separate categories for its prestigous individual awards and rolling the honors into one category called NEA American Artists of the Year.
Up until now the honors were distributed in three categories: NEA Jazz Masters Fellowships, the National Heritage Fellowships and Opera Honors. NEA officials said the new award would cover more artistic categories.
"This is a conversation we've been having for over a year now as it simply seems correct to extend the NEA's honoring of artists to as full a spectrum as possible, including dancers, theater artists, other musicians, filmmakers and visual artists," according to a statement posted on the agency's Art Works blog Wednesday.
The awards have been a rare way for the federal government to salute artists who usually are not included in other programs. Jazz and opera artists are part of the mix of Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors.
Expanding the pool of eligibility would diminish the chances of artists who are outside the mainstream, particularly the folk and traditional crafts artisans, who are carrying on specific work of their ethnic or geographic groups.
That would be a loss for the quiltmakers, the boatmakers and basketweavers, or musicians who never make a record but represent a unique musical style. "The criteria for valuing those traditions is different. It is also about excellence but these arts and traditions get to the heart of our American identity," said Julia Olin, the executive director of the National Council of the Traditional Arts.
The NEA statement said, "Our proposed NEA American Artists of the Year will still honor jazz, folk and traditional arts, and opera, including them as part of a fuller spectrum of American art forms and artists."
All three groups are given an honorium of $25,000. To date 358 people have been selected for the Heritage Fellows. The Jazz Masters was started in 1982, the same year the Heritage debuted, and 119 people have been honored. The Opera category only dates back to 2008 and has included 13 peopleThe request to change the way the awards are given is contained in the agency's 2012 budget request to Congress. Revisions to the NEA's legislation would be required. The agency said the three separate programs would be held this year.
| February 18, 2011; 10:00 AM ET
Categories: Jacqueline Trescott, National Endowment for the Arts | Tags: Jazz Masters Fellowships, NEA American Artists of the Year, National Endowment for the Arts, National Heritage Fellowships, Opera Honors
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