California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

June 30, 2016Liz Auclair, National Endowment for the Arts

Two California Master Artists Receive Nation’s Highest Honor in the Folk and Traditional Arts

Artemio Posadas of San Jose and Bounxeung Synanonh of Fresno to be celebrated in Washington, DC

NEA Heritage Fellows

WASHINGTON, DC - Masters of art forms ranging from Native-American basketmaking, to Laotian khaen playing, to Mardi Gras Indian traditions will receive the 2016 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) National Heritage Fellowships, our nation's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. These nine individuals are not only highly accomplished artists, but are also dedicated to sharing these art forms with new audiences and teaching a new generation of artists. The NEA National Heritage Fellowships include an award of $25,000 and the recipients will be honored at an awards ceremony and a concert in Washington, DC, this September.

The two California artists receiving this national honor are Artemio Posadas of San Jose, a Master Huastecan Son (mexican musical tradition) musician and advocate; and Bounxeung Synanonh of Fresno, a Laotian Khaen (free-reed mouth organ) player.

Artemio Posadas is the recipient of the 2016 Bess Lomax Hawes NEA National Heritage Fellowship in special recognition of an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage.   

"The Alliance for California Traditional Arts considers Artemio Posadas and Bounxeung Synanohn cultural treasures," said Amy Kitchener, Executive Director of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, the California Arts Council's official state partner for folk and traditional arts. "We have presented these two artists in several public programs and supported each of them through grants to perpetuate their musical skills to others in their communities. These awards are a wonderful recognition that will share their music and gifts with the rest of the nation. This is a proud moment for all of us in the traditional arts in California."

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, "The folk and traditional arts connect us with those long-established artistic traditions that honor our identities. The NEA National Heritage Fellowships highlight these artists who have worked to ensure that these artistic traditions will continue for generations to come."

The 2016 NEA National Heritage Fellowship recipients are:

Profiles of the artists are available on the NEA's website, along with photos and audio and video samples of their work.

With the announcement of the 2016 class, the NEA has awarded 413 NEA National Heritage Fellowships since 1982, recognizing artists working in more than 200 distinct art forms, such as bluesman B.B. King, Cajun fiddler and composer Michael Doucet, sweetgrass basketweaver Mary Jackson, cowboy poet Wally McRae, Kathak dancer and choreographer Chitresh Das, and gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples. More information about the NEA National Heritage Fellowships is available on the NEA's website or in this fact sheet.

The NEA is currently accepting nominations for the 2016 class of NEA National Heritage Fellowships. The deadline is July 25, 2016. Visit the NEA's website for more information and to submit a nomination.

2016 NEA National Heritage Fellowships Events in Washington, DC

The NEA will celebrate the 2016 National Heritage Fellows in Washington, DC, at an awards ceremony at the Library of Congress on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 and a free concert on Friday, September 30, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium. Both events are free and open to the public. Concert tickets are first come, first served and will be available later this summer. The concert will also be webcast live at More information about these events will be available this fall.

2016 and 2017 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival's Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert on Sunday, July 3, 2016 at 6:30 p.m. will feature past recipients of NEA National Heritage Fellowships. Performers include Iraqi-American oud master Rahim AlHaj; Irish American fiddler Liz Carroll; Dobro musician Jerry DouglasLos Texmaniacs (in honor of Mexican-American conjunto musician Flaco Jiménez); Lakota flute player, singer, and dancer Kevin Locke; klezmer musician Andy Statman; and the legacy of the late Washington, D.C. go-go musician, Chuck Brown. More information on the concert is available here.

This concert offers a preview of the 2017 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which will feature a full program on the NEA National Heritage Fellows. Exemplary artists from a wide variety of cultural groups and regions will share their music, dance, crafts, and stories with each other and the public. Performances, demonstrations, and workshops will also include family and community members to show that traditional arts are rooted in community life, and that it takes inspiring efforts to pass traditions onto future generations.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America's rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts and the agency is celebrating this milestone with events and activities through September 2016. Go to to enjoy art stories from around the nation, peruse Facts & Figures, and check out the anniversary timeline. 

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