Eleven artists have been awarded National Heritage Fellowships, the National Endowment for the Arts' (NEA) most prestigious honor in folk and traditional arts.
Each artist is considered a guardian of generations-old folk art representing many threads of America's cultural fabric - from rural and urban communities in eight states. Fellowships include a one-time award of $10,000 and honor artists, teachers, innovators, and "keepers" of traditional art forms. More than 200 fellowships have been awarded since 1982.
In a prepared statement, NEA chairman Jane Alexander said, "Our highest honor in the folk and traditional arts recognizes masters whose extraordinary talents spring from the heart of home and community. With vision and dedication, these individuals pass skills from generation to generation - bringing new life to invaluable traditions and shaping a nation where our differences become our strength."
Edward Babb, "Shout" band gospel musician, trombonist, and band leader. Jamaica, N.Y.
Charles Brown, West Coast Blues pianist, vocalist, and composer. Berkeley, Calif.
Gladys LeBlanc Clark, Cajun spinner and weaver. Duson, La.
Wenyi Hua, Chinese Kunqu opera singer. Arcadia, Calif.
Ali Akbar Khan, North Indian sarod player and raga composer. San Anselmo, Calif.
Ramn Jos Lpez, carver and metalsmith. Santa Fe, N.M.
Jim and Jesse McRaynolds, bluegrass musicians. Gallatin, Tenn.
Phong Nguyen, Vietnamese musician and scholar. Kent, Ohio.
Hystercine Rankin, African-American quilter. Lorman, Miss.
Francis Whitaker, blacksmith and ornamental ironworker. Carbondale, Colo.