Honored Folk Artists
Tennessee is home to many outstanding folk artists who have mastered, preserved, and passed on their traditional skills. A number of Tennesseans have received special recognition by both federal and state programs for lifetime dedication and accomplishments in the folk arts. Their contributions to our culture are honored and remembered through these heritage awards, and sources about their lives and work, linked by clicking their names below, provide a sampling of the best of Tennessee’s traditional arts.
The National Heritage Fellowship is an award presented annually since 1982 to about a dozen Americans by the National Endowment for the Arts. Although the program strives for wide representation to people of different backgrounds, places, and art forms, the long list of recipients over the years whom Tennessee can claim testifies to our state’s folk cultural wealth:
The Tennessee Folklife Heritage Award has been presented every other year since 2001 as part of the Governor’s Arts Awards, a program of the Tennessee Arts Commission. The award honors “long-term achievements within art forms that are rooted in the traditional or ethnic culture of Tennessee.” Some of its recipient artists have also received the National Heritage Fellowship, and the Governor’s Awards also recognized a few folk artists prior to the creation of the Folklife Heritage category: