Wisconsin Artist Receives Nation's Highest Award For Folk And Traditional Arts

​​​​​​MADISON, Wis. (June 9, 2015) – Wisconsin Artist Sidonka Wadina received the nation’s highest award for folk and traditional arts, recognized as a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Heritage Fellow. Wadina, a master straw artist, is deeply influenced by her Slovakian roots and the eighth Wisconsin artist to be named a National Heritage Fellow. To learn more about Wadina’s art and heritage, see the Slavic Arts in Wisconsin video series on the Wisconsin Arts Board’s YouTube channel. ​

Each year the National Endowment for the Arts celebrates master folk and traditional artists that embody the evolving artistic landscape of the nation and its diversity of culture. The NEA National Heritage Fellowships recognize the recipients' artistic excellence and support their continuing contributions to our nation's traditional arts heritage. This is the highest honor that our nation bestows on traditional artists.

The Wisconsin Arts Board nominated Wadina for the Heritage Fellowship in recognition for her outstanding work. “Thank you for all the time, work and effort you have put into this nomination for me. I am so grateful,” said Wadina.

Raised in the Slovak community of Milwaukee, she first learned to decorate eggs and weave straw designs from her grandmother. For 58 years she’s demonstrated these intricate designs at the annual Holiday Folk Fair in Milwaukee. Wadina has served as a master artist in the Wisconsin Arts Board’s competitive Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program five times in the past seven years, teaching nine apprentices the intricacies of her craft. The Wisconsin Arts Board is able to offer its Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program thanks to partnership funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Wadina has been a valued participant in the folk arts programs of Wisconsin Arts Board for three decades. Among events organized by the Arts Board, Wadina represented Wisconsin at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 1998 and in the 2008 and 2011 regional Midwest Folklife Festivals held in Dodgeville. Photos of her wheat weavings graced the covers of the 1998 Wisconsin Folklife Festival’s brochure and the Wisconsin Folk Art: A Sesquicentennial Celebration exhibit catalogue and brochure. She also participated in the exhibition, “Wisconsin Folks: Masters of Tradition” in Madison in 2012-13.


Previous NEA Heritage Fellows include:

1987 – Louis Bashell of Milwaukee, Slovenian accordion music

1989 – Ethel Kvalheim of Stoughton, Norwegian rosemaling

1992 – Gerald Hawpetoss of Neopit, Menominee/Potawatomi regalia

1996 – Betty Piso Christenson of Suring, Ukrainian-American pysanky

1999 – Lila Greengrass Blackdeer of Black River Falls, Ho-Chunk black ash baskets and needlework

2003 – Ron Poast of Black Earth, Norwegian Hardanger fiddle luthier

2008 – Oneida Hymn Singers of Oneida, Christian hymns sung in Oneida language


For more information on any of Wisconsin’s Heritage Fellows, including a profile of Wadina and this year’s other honorees, see the National Endowment for the Arts’ Lifetime Honors section.


The Wisconsin Arts Board is the state agency which nurtures creativity, cultivates expression, promotes the arts, supports the arts in education, stimulates community and economic development and serves as a resource for people of every culture and heritage.  Since 1973, the Arts Board has supported artists and arts organizations with funds from the state legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.  For more information on the Wisconsin Arts Board, please visit www.artsboard.wisconsin.gov​. For information on Wisconsin arts and cultural events, please visit www.portalwisconsin.org.