Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Mon, Oct. 19

AZ Artist Grace Henderson Nez nails National Heritage Fellowship

WASHINGTON -- Grace Henderson Nez is one of 12 recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowships, the country's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

On June 14, the National Endowment for the Arts announced the 2005 recipients. Each fellowship, which include a one-time award of $20,000 each, will be presented to honorees from 11 states. These awardees were chosen for their artistic excellence, cultural authenticity and contributions to their field. The traditions they represent range from Navajo weaving, to Hawaiian chanting, and Mexican American paper-cutting to Cajun fiddling.

Nez has lived her entire life in a hogan at the base of Ganado Mesa on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. For more than seven decades, she has raised and sheared sheep, carded and dyed the wool and woven intricate and distinctive Navajo rugs.

In addition to creating textiles with complex and balanced designs, she reveals her technique in her ability to select the right wool quality, yarn weight and weaving texture to produce strong and perfectly even rugs and blankets. Her works are in the late 19th century designs known as the "old style" as well as the distinct Ganado style, using brilliant red backgrounds with natural white, gray, brown and black geometric patterns.

Scholar Ann Lane Hedlund estimates that there are more than 10,000 weavers on the Navajo Reservation. She suggests that Grace Henderson Nez is especially deserving of recognition because she combines artistic excellence with the traditional values and spiritual concentration that serve as a model for all weavers of the region.

In 2002, Nez received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Museum of Indian Arts and Crafts in Santa Fe.

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia said, "The NEA's National Heritage Fellowships honor the individuals who preserve America's folk and traditional arts. These masterful artists and the cultural legacies they embody are so often overlooked by mainstream media, that it is a special thrill to give them proper recognition."

The 2005 awardees will come to Washington D.C. in September for a series of events including an awards presentation on Capitol Hill and a concert at Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University on Friday, Sept. 23. For more information, contact the NEA Office of Communications at 202-682-5570 or visit the NEA Web site at

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