​Two Wisconsin Artists Receive Nation's Highest Honor in the Folk and Traditional Arts

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Karen Ann Hoffman, 2020 National Heritage Fellow. Photo by James Kelly.

Madison, Wis.​ (June 23, 2020) As part of the National Endowment for the Arts' work to support and celebrate the distinct living traditions of communities around our nation, the agency announced the 2020 recipients of its National Heritage Fellowships. Two of Wisconsin's finest traditional artists, Karen Ann Hoffman (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin), Iroquois Raised Beadworker from Stevens Point, and Wayne Valliere (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe), Birchbark Canoe Builder from Waaswaaganing (Lac du Flambeau) are among only nine recipients of the annual award. These lifetime honor awards are given in recognition of both artistic excellence and efforts to sustain cultural traditions for future generations. The National Heritage Fellowship is the highest honor that our nation bestows on traditional artists.​

“We are thrilled for Karen Ann and Wayne, two incredibly accomplished and well-respected tradition bearers," said Kaitlyn Berle, the Wisconsin Arts Board's Folk and Traditional Arts Coordinator. “This award amplifies their inspiring artistry and stories, and is a testament to the caliber of their work and the importance of their art forms. The Arts Board congratulates them for their significant contributions to the cultural fabric of our state and this national recognition of their work." 

Hoffman and Valliere join the ranks of eight previous National Heritage Fellowship recipients from Wisconsin: Louis Bashell of Greenfield, Slovenian Accordionist, 1987; Ethel Kvalheim of Stoughton, Norwegian Rosemaler, 1989; Gerald Hawpetoss of Neopit, Menominee/Potawatomi Regalia Maker, 1992; Betty Piso Christenson of Suring, Ukrainian-American pysanky, 1996; Lila Greengrass Blackdeer of Black River Falls, Ho-Chunk Black ash basketmaker and needleworker, 1999; Ron Poast of Black Earth, Hardanger fiddle luthier and player, 2003; Oneida Hymn Singers of Wisconsin, Oneida Hymn Singers, 2008; and Sidonka Wadina of Lyons, Slovak Wheat Weaver and Egg Decorator, 2015. Including the 2020 class, the Arts Endowment has awarded 449 National Heritage Fellowships, recognizing artists working in more than 200 distinct art forms.

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Fellowship recipients are nominated by the public, often by members of their own communities, and then judged by a panel of experts in the folk and traditional arts. Dr. Anne Pryor, Madison-based folklorist emerita of the Wisconsin Arts Board, nominated Karen Ann Hoffman for the award, and Dr. Tim Frandy, Assistant Professor of Folk Studies at Western Kentucky University, nominated Wayne Valliere. The panel's recommendations are reviewed by the National Council on the Arts, which sends its recommendations to the Arts Endowment chairman, who makes the final decision. 

As National Heritage Award Fellows, Hoffman and Valliere will each receive a $25,000 award and be honored at public events. This year's annual celebration of the new class of National Heritage Fellows will take place virtually, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. More information about this virtual event, including the date, will be available at a later time. Visit the National Endowment for the Arts website for more information on any of Wisconsin's Heritage Fellows, including full profiles of Hoffman​, Valliere, and this year's other honorees, or to submit a nomination.

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.

Pictured above: Karen Ann Hoffman (left), 2020 National Heritage Fellow. Photo by James Kelly; Wayne Valliere (right), 2020 National Heritage Fellow. Photo by Tim Frandy.​