#HeritageAwards

Meet the recipients of the 2023 North Carolina Heritage Awards

Zoe Van Buren

Monday, October 17, 2022
Since 1989, the North Carolina Heritage Awards have honored artists across the state for their contributions to the cultural life of their communities. The Folklife program of the North Carolina Arts Council has announced that six artists will receive a Heritage Award on May 31, 2023, at a public ceremony in Raleigh. Details and tickets are available on the Heritage Award event page
 
The 2023 North Carolina Arts Council Heritage Award recipients are muralist Cornelio Campos, white oak basket maker Neal Thomas, Southern gospel and bluegrass musician Rhonda Gouge, champion old-time fiddler Richard Bowman, and Cherokee white-oak basket maker Louise Goings and her husband, the carver Butch Goings. Recipients are nominated by their communities and selected through a panel process. Learn more about the artists below. 

Cornelio Campos, Durham
Muralism

Cornelio Campos is one of the state’s most celebrated traditional painters and muralists. Hailing from Cherán, Michoacán, Mexico, Campos is a Purepecha, an officially recognized indigenous people with their own language. As a child, Campos absorbed his community’s rich cultural traditions, working as an apprentice with a local artist into his teenage years. Following family and better opportunity to the United States, he developed as an artist while living in Los Angeles, and then settled permanently in North Carolina. For the first 10 years here, Campos labored as a farmworker and was unable to paint. The opportunity to begin a career as an electrician allowed him to paint again, and Campos found new purpose and joy. He drew on both the centuries-old traditions of Michoacán and his new life in the United States to develop his own visual language as a painter and public muralist, becoming part of a long heritage of Mexican American muralism in the United States. Now Campos is celebrated as visual storyteller of the experiences of immigrants in North Carolina.
Rhonda Gouge, Bakersville
Gospel and Bluegrass
Rhonda Gouge lives in the small community of Ledger, in Mitchell County, where she has been teaching music for more than 50 years. Gouge’s earliest musical mentor was the fiddle and banjo player Oscar “Red” Wilson, her great-uncle by marriage, who received a Heritage Award in 2003. He taught her the traditional fiddle tunes of the area and helped her with her first recording, which was done in his home studio. Gouge worked with Wilson for many years as a recording session musician; as a member of his band, the Toe River Valley Boys; and performing with him as a duo in churches and at community functions. Although Gouge worked full-time at a local factory for almost two decades, she continued to teach an increasing number of students and remained musically active, playing in church and at community events, and recording with and traveling with gospel groups on weekends to events, where she was often a groundbreaking presence as a female musician. Gouge eventually was able to teach music full-time and went on to work with more than 1,000 students, some of whom would travel for miles to learn from her. She has spent her life in Ledger, where she has been both an innovator and tradition-bearer of western North Carolina’s sacred and secular music.
Neal Thomas, Wendell
White Oak Basketmaking
When he was about 20 years old, Neal Thomas and his brothers learned the craft of split white-oak basketmaking from an older man in Johnston County who made and sold baskets. He learned the process one step at a time—first by watching, then by doing. Basketmaking traditions in North Carolina have Native American, European, and African origins, each culture influencing the others, but the sturdy, utilitarian, split-oak baskets that Thomas learned to make have been undervalued because they are the “workhorse” of baskets, used to hold everything from livestock to home goods. White oak grows abundantly in the North Carolina Piedmont, but it is laborious to process and increasingly hard for Thomas to source as land around his Wake County home is clear-cut for development. Making a basket in the traditional way requires the knowledge and the physical stamina to identify a good tree, harvest it, and hand-draw it into splits, all before the weaving can begin. The result is a basket so strong that it can hold the weight of an adult human being. Without glue, written plans, or pre-made forms, Thomas makes baskets that last a lifetime.
Richard Bowman, Mount Airy
Old-Time Fiddle
Richard was born and raised on the North Carolina/Virginia border in Ararat, Virginia, and now lives in Mount Airy, North Carolina, where he is at the heart of the region’s old-time music and dance community. Bowman learned to play the autoharp from his mother, and later learned from some of the most influential musicians in the area to play the fiddle. He has been a member of several significant local groups: the Pine River Boys with Maybelle Lewis; the Slate Mountain Ramblers; and the Round Peak Band, which was instrumental in popularizing and spreading the “round peak” string-band sound specific to Surry County and its surrounding communities in North Carolina and Virginia. The region has produced many iconic musicians, and the old-time music they play is especially important in the community as dance music. Bowman has played for dancers all his musical life, honing a plain long-bow style that is especially enjoyable to dance to. He has won awards at fiddler’s conventions throughout the region. He continues to play for square dances and community events with the Slate Mountain Ramblers, now a family band that includes his wife Barbara Bowman and daughter Marsha Todd, who are also talented dancers. Bowman is a resource to other musicians, who value him as a luthier, instrument repairer, and teacher in the traditional manner: by ear and demonstration.
Butch and Louise Goings, Cherokee
Wood and Soapstone Carving, White Oak Basketmaking
Butch and Louise Goings are master Cherokee artisans: Louise in basketmaking and Butch in carving, among other crafts. Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, they are known in their community as keepers of many Cherokee traditions and cultural and historical knowledge. They continue to pass that knowledge on both informally and through cultural events, community workshops, and youth programs. Butch was a student of the carver Amanda Crowe, who won a Heritage Award in 2000; Louise learned to harvest white oak and make baskets from her mother, the 1989 Heritage Award recipient Emma Taylor. Working with natural dyes and oak she harvests herself, Louise gained an understanding of the plants, places, and ecosystems of the southern Appalachians that enabled her to be self-sufficient as a basketmaker. Together, the couple are widely known as resources on Cherokee language, dance, cooking, gardening, and the traditional values of mutual support and sharing. For more than 20 years, Butch has participated in the Gadugi Free Labor Group, a group of men who offer free work to families in need. The Goings are also active in the oldest and leading Native American arts and crafts cooperative in the country: the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, for which Butch has served as board president for many years.

 

Zoe van Buren

ZOE VAN BUREN is the folklife director for the North Carolina Arts Council, where she administers programs that support the practice and transmission of living traditions across the state. She is the co-author of Hanging Tree Guitars (2020).

Remembering H Ju Nie, North Carolina Weaver

Intro by Zoe Van Buren | Story by Andrew Young

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

After a two-year hiatus owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the North Carolina Heritage Awards will return. The North Carolina Arts Council’s Folklife Program is accepting nominations for eligible artists and tradition-bearers now through May 2, 2022. Recipients will receive a fellowship and participate in a public ceremony in Raleigh.

Since 1989, the Arts Council has celebrated the cultural heritage of communities large and small through these awards—the state’s highest honor for folk and traditional artists. They recognize not only those who have made statewide impact, but also those who perpetuate traditional practice, in all of its diversity, at home in their communities—quilters, potters, boatbuilders, musicians, herbalists, storytellers, fishermen, and so on.

To receive the awards, an artist or practitioner must be nominated by someone familiar with their life and work and supported by the voices of their peers. Recipients typically are elders, recognized for their lifetime of knowledge and expertise and for their deep dedication to the shared cultural expression and lifeways of a people.

The Montagnard weaver H Ju Nie, of Greensboro, received an award in 2016, sharing it with fellow weaver H Nach Rahlan. When Nie died, in October 2021, her passing was a tremendous loss to her community. Here Andrew Young, an artist and community advocate married to Betsy Renfrew, an artist and educator who nominated both weavers for the award, reflects on their work on behalf of Montagnard textile traditions in America, and why the North Carolina Heritage Award matters.

H Ju Nie, Greensboro Artist and NC Heritage Award Recipient, 1944–2021.

In March 2009, Thomas Eban (ama Mja) drove to the Montagnard Dega Association, in Greensboro, with examples of weaving done by his wife, H Ju Nie (ami Mja), beginning the journey to make her exquisite work known to the world. My wife Betsy Renfrew, an artist who had worked with refugee communities like the Montagnards around Greensboro, later developed a friendship with her and began to video document traditional backstrap weaving techniques in order to preserve them for young people from the community who were fast losing the skill and interest, and to demonstrate to the American art world the presence of highly skilled artists in Greensboro newcomer communities.

Although Betsy and I are products of fine arts programs in the Western tradition, we were struck by the integrity of ami Mja’s work. We admired the creativity with which this artist had extended the tradition, history, and culture of her community, which had been transplanted from Vietnam to the United States. Above all, her modest means, like those of the remaining Montagnard weavers still active, highlighted a strong connection between artist and community that often in our own professional experiences seemed tenuous. Her traditional pieces (blankets and dresses) were meant to be worn and seen at special functions and ceremonies, so any discussion we sought to initiate with ami Mja about the number of hours, cost of materials, and profit were irrelevant to her. With so much artists' talk dominated by economic survival, reputation, and career building, this weaver reminded us of North Carolina craftspeople and artisans of an earlier time.

In the summer of 2009, Betsy carefully researched some of ami Mja’s weavings, identifying their symbolism and construction. She also learned a bit of the Rhade language, to better understand ami Mja's attitude and approach to her work. Betsy helped ami Mja enter her weavings in a show at GreenHill Center for the Arts that December, where they were displayed with work by other prominent N.C. artists and craftspeople.

A year or two later, Betsy brought examples of weavings by ami Mja and other Montagnards to the Textile Museum, in Washington, D.C. Mattiebelle Gittinger, one of the foremost scholars on Southeast Asian textile arts, was impressed by the fine skills they displayed and said she was pleased to see the weaving tradition continuing by Montagnard women here in the United States.

Based on the many YouTube videos that Betsy published featuring work by ami Mja and others, Laverne Waddington, a noted blogger and world traveler interested in traditional backstrap weaving, made a trip from her home in Bolivia to visit both ami Mja and Ngach Rahlan (ami Suan) and see their techniques first-hand.

At the 2015 National Folk Festival in Greensboro, ami Mja demonstrated her skills when the Greensboro Historical Museum chose to turn over its entire first floor to the youth of the Montagnard American Organization (now under the MDA), which organized a wonderful presentation of art, culture, and traditional and contemporary music.

Finally, with the support of Sally Peterson, who was then the director of the North Carolina Arts Council’s Folklife program, Betsy nominated both ami Mja and H Nach Rahlan (ami Suan) for 2016 North Carolina Heritage Awards, the highest honor traditional artists and craftspeople can receive in our state. With Dock Rmah, a 1996 recipient for his musical accomplishments, the Montagnard community boast three recipients of this prestigious award. The awards affirm that these are not marginal "refugee" artists but are, instead, true contributors to the arts and culture of the state. Ami Mja and ami Suan were received at the Governor's Mansion in Raleigh, dined with other award recipients from across the state, and appeared on the WUNC-TV broadcast of the award ceremonies.

We will miss our friend and fellow artist. Ami Mja’s extraordinary accomplishment, creativity, skill, and vision, while always appreciated by the Montagnard community, are now understood as a lasting part of North Carolina's artistic heritage.

Zoe van Buren

ZOE VAN BUREN is the folklife director for the North Carolina Arts Council, where she administers programs that support the practice and transmission of living traditions across the state. She is the co-author of Hanging Tree Guitars (2020).

2018 North Carolina Heritage Award Recipients

North Carolina Arts Council

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Arvil Freeman, Glenn and Lula Bolick, Asha Bala, Tony Williamson, and Dick Knight

Since 1989, the North Carolina Heritage Award has honored our state’s most eminent traditional artists and practitioners. Recipients of the Heritage Awards range from internationally acclaimed musicians to folks who quietly practice their art in family and community settings. Awardees receive a cash award and are honored in a ceremony that draws large and enthusiastic audiences. Several North Carolinians have gone on to receive the National Heritage Fellowship Awards presented by the National Endowment for the Arts.

These awards deepen our awareness of North Carolina’s diverse cultural traditions, and their importance to our state’s past, present and future.

Heritage Award recipients are nominated by citizens of the state and selected through panel process.

Explore podcast and video tributes to these artists for their individual artistic accomplishments and for representing the cultural treasures found in our communities small and large, rural and urban.


 

Arvil Freeman

Fiddler Arvil Freeman of Buncombe County has performed and passed on his traditions for over fifty years and is known for his smooth and melodic long-bow style. He has won countless fiddling competitions, including the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, Union Grove, and Georgia's Official State Fiddlers’ Convention. Now Arvil devotes his time to teaching rather than performing and he instructs his students by ear, the old-time way. 

Learn more about Arvil Freeman by visiting his profile page.

  

Asha Bala

Asha Bala is a performer, scholar, and instructor of the South Indian classical dance tradition Bharatanatyam. She has shared her passion for dance and culture with students throughout the Triangle and Fayetteville areas since 2002. Bala’s artistic outreach endeavors includes teaching dance as holistic care to empower individuals with disabilities and special needs. Known affectionately as “Aunty” by her students, Bala practices a personalized approach to assist student’s individual needs.

Learn more about Asha Bala by visiting her profile page.

  

Lula and Glenn Bolick

Lula and Glenn Bolick of Caldwell County have brought multiple mountain and piedmont traditions into the 21st century. As potters, they continue the practice of Lula’s family, the Owens of Seagrove. Glenn sustains his family’s traditions as a saw-miller, musician, and storyteller, all showcased at the family’s annual Heritage Day celebration.

Learn more about Lula and Gleen Bolick by visiting their profile page.

  

Dick Knight

Lenoir County’s Dick Knight is a professional multi-instrumental jazz, R&B, funk, and soul musician, who played with James Brown, Otis Redding, Dionne Warwick, and Gladys Knight. He taught and influenced countless students through his work as a band director and music instructor in Florida and in Kinston, N.C.

Learn more about Dick Knight by visiting his profile page.

  

Tony Williamson

Tony Williamson is a renowned mandolin player from Chatham County, who started playing at age nine, and by 15 he won the first-place “world champion” title for mandolin at the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention. Now an internationally-recognized expert on the mandolin, Tony has always served as a mentor and an instructor to other players. 

Learn more about Tony Williamson by visiting his profile page.

2016 North Carolina Heritage Award Recipients

North Carolina Arts Council

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sheila Kay Adams, The Lewis Family Boatbuilders, H Ju Nie and H Ngach Rahlan, Maceo Parker, and Marc Pruett

Since 1989, the North Carolina Heritage Award has honored our state’s most eminent traditional artists and practitioners. Recipients of the Heritage Awards range from internationally acclaimed musicians to folks who quietly practice their art in family and community settings. Awardees receive a cash award and are honored in a ceremony that draws large and enthusiastic audiences. Several North Carolinians have gone on to receive the National Heritage Fellowship Awards presented by the National Endowment for the Arts.

These awards deepen our awareness of North Carolina’s diverse cultural traditions, and their importance to our state’s past, present and future.

Heritage Award recipients are nominated by citizens of the state and selected through panel process.

Explore podcast and video tributes to these artists for their individual artistic accomplishments and for representing the cultural treasures found in our communities small and large, rural and urban.


 

Sheila Kay Adams

Sheila Kay Adams traces her balladry roots back seven generations to the mid-1700s. Her Scots-Irish forebears pioneered the Appalachians and made the mountains of Madison County their home. Sheila absorbed the songs of her great-aunt “Granny Dell,” Dellie Norton Chandler, and also learned from Doug Wallin, both North Carolina Heritage Award recipients. She learned banjo from local legends Byard Ray and Fred Cockerham, and was a rapt listener to the tales, legends and stories that elevated conversation to an art form in her home community. Sheila taught school after her graduation from Mars Hill College in 1975, but her career took a new turn as she began to perform the mountain repertoire that had shaped her childhood. Her gift for storytelling took written form with the publication of a collection of family stories titled Come Go Home with Me (UNC Press, 1995), and a critically acclaimed novel My Old True Love (Algonquin Books, 2004).

Learn more about Sheila Kay Adams by visiting her profile page.

  

The Lewis Family Boatbuilders

Nowhere does North Carolina’s boatbuilding tradition run deeper than ‘down east’ on Harkers Island, and the Lewis Family Boatbuilders personifies that mix of art and work that marks the Harkers Island tradition. Established in 1954 by brothers Houston and Jamie Lewis, the operation is now run by Jamie and his son James, with help from the rising generations. They ground their reputation for quality in an inherited sense of design and style. Their generations-old knowledge of how a boat handles in the water and holds itself in the wind and tide is unmatched even on Harkers Island. “This has just been a way to make a living,” is what Jamie Lewis will tell you, but his boats say much more. The Lewis Family’s unspoken commitment to the Harkers Island boatbuilding tradition is evident in every boat, and it has been that commitment that has supported this business for three, almost four, generations.  

Learn more about the Lews Family Boatbuilders by visiting their profile page.

  

H Ju Nie and H Ngach Rahlan

Montagnard Dega weavers H Jue Nie and H Ngach Rahlan of Greensboro mastered the ancient spinning, dying and weaving traditions of their people while growing up in the central highlands of Vietnam.  Once a part of every highland woman’s knowledge and practice, women wove to clothe their families, decorate homes and altars, and to keep everyone warm at night.  War and displacement has reduced the numbers of skilled weavers remaining in Vietnam, and few refugees have the time to practice these arts, let alone learn them.  Calling themselves Dega, more Vietnamese Montagnards settled in North Carolina than in any other state, due to their fellowship with Special Forces units during the Vietnam War.   H Jue Nie and H Ngach Rahlan moved to Greensboro twenty years ago, bringing their backstrap looms and an immeasurable knowledge of the designs and techniques that make their weaving traditions unique.

Learn more about H Ju Nie and H Ngach Rahlan by visiting ther profile page.

  

Maceo Parker

International recording star, touring artist, composer and arranger Maceo Parker—reputedly the most sampled musician in history—credits his Kinston hometown for providing the inspiration and training that would catapult him to stardom, first as James Brown’s most famous sideman and then as a wildly popular architect of funk backed by his own band.  Parker’s musical story connects the dots between the urban South’s vernacular African American traditional music forms and styles—the blues, gospel, jazz, rhythm and blues of home, church and street--and the disciplined instrumentation taught by professional musicians in segregated Black schools.  This native North Carolinian’s artistry, rooted in the phenomenally rich musical heritage of eastern North Carolina, has had an enormous and lasting influence on the popular music of America and of the world beyond our borders.

Learn more about Maceo Parker by visiting his profile page.

  

Marc Pruett

Renowned banjo player, songwriterand Haywood County native Marc Reagan Pruett makes a life for himself and his family that reflects his commitment to his mountain region, its music and its people. Marc has a deep reverence for traditional mountain music.  His mastery of the five string  banjo is second to none. Marc has appeared on many nationally released albums and on a large volume of regional releases. His prolific songwriting, both solo and with numerous partners, has taken his music to the top of the bluegrass charts. He has released an album of children’s music with Steven Heller. The humor that graces his bluegrass presentations has been preserved in collections of southern humor. Now performing with Balsam Range, a North Carolina bluegrass group of enormous range and even larger popularity, Marc Pruett’s devotion to the mountain culture of his North Carolina home reaches a world-wide audience.

Learn more about Marc Pruett by visiting his profile page.

2014 North Carolina Heritage Award Recipients

North Carolina Arts Council

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bobby Hicks, Susan Morgan Leveille, Sid Luck, Bill Myers, and Arnold Richardson

Since 1989, the North Carolina Heritage Award has honored our state’s most eminent traditional artists and practitioners. Recipients of the Heritage Awards range from internationally acclaimed musicians to folks who quietly practice their art in family and community settings. Awardees receive a cash award and are honored in a ceremony that draws large and enthusiastic audiences. Several North Carolinians have gone on to receive the National Heritage Fellowship Awards presented by the National Endowment for the Arts.

These awards deepen our awareness of North Carolina’s diverse cultural traditions, and their importance to our state’s past, present and future.

Heritage Award recipients are nominated by citizens of the state and selected through panel process.

Explore podcast and video tributes to these artists for their individual artistic accomplishments and for representing the cultural treasures found in our communities small and large, rural and urban.


 

Bobby Hicks

Bobby Hicks and his fiddle are back home in North Carolina after twenty-two years of playing gigs on the road. Born in Newton, Bobby grew up in Greensboro during the 1930s when the North Carolina Piedmont was awash with country music. He learned to play mandolin, guitar, and fiddle--and was winning contests--by the time he was eleven years old. By the age of fifteen Bobby was on the road with Jimmy Eanes out of Danville, Virginia, and at twenty-one he filled in on bass for Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys on their Carolina tour. During the 1960s, Bobby performed with Porter Wagoner, and later with Judi Lynn’s Las Vegas television show. An innovator, he began exploring harmonies on his fiddle to capture the sounds he was hearing from Western swing fiddler Johnny Gimble. When Ricky Scaggs came calling in 1981, Bobby answered the call. His twenty-two years with that band made bluegrass history.

Learn more about Bobby Hicks by visiting his profile page.

  

Susan Morgan Leveille

By the time she was seven years old, Susan “was determined she was going to weave,” according to her aunt, Frances Cargill, a weaver herself. After graduating from the University of Tennessee, where she majored in Crafts, Susan taught weaving in local community colleges. In her marriage to Bob Leveille, she found a business partner and together they opened a weaving shop and teaching studio in 1977. Promoting the traditional arts of her beloved mountains is as much a part of Susan’s inheritance as her emphasis on superior craftsmanship and her passion for weaving. She has shared her skills and historical knowledge with many students at regional universities, community colleges, and craft schools. A third generation member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild and a former Board President, she has also helped develop Handmade in America, Stecoah Valley Weavers and the Appalachian Women’s Museum.

Learn more about Susan Morgan Leveille by visiting her profile page.

  

Sid Luck

Sid is the fifth generation of Lucks to dig, turn, and burn the local clay of Seagrove. Earlier generations of potters in the Luck family had to supplement their income by farming, but Sid took a different path. He joined the marines, served in Vietnam, earned a degree in science education with a specialty in chemistry from North Carolina State University and taught high school chemistry in Charlotte, Tallahassee, Florida, Winston-Salem, and finally, in Seagrove. Making pottery was never far from his mind, however, and he always kept a pottery wheel nearby “to keep my hand in.” After much thought, Sid Luck took a fateful plunge. “I had always wanted to strictly do pottery, so I got the nerve up in 1990, to resign my teaching position, and do this full time. And I have never regretted it to this day.”

Learn more about Sid Luck by visiting his profile page.

  

Bill Myers

Bill Myers’ friends know that “Popeye” Myers, jazz musician and band leader of “The Monitors” for more than fifty years, and William E. Myers, distinguished educator, civic leader and Music Director of St. John A.M.E. Zion Church in Wilson are one and the same. Bill credits music with bringing his contrasting experiences into a harmonious life story. “Music,” he says, “has that kind of power.” In classrooms and concert halls, Bill Myers is a consummate musician who changes minds and touches hearts. He has led The Monitors in countless performances, delighting generations of Eastern North Carolinians. As a spokesman for the African American Music Trail, he brings musical virtuosity and a deep commitment to support the region’s dynamic African American heritage.

Learn more about Billy Myers by visiting his profile page.

  

Arnold Richardson

“It was something that I was just called to do, and kind of compelled to do.” Even as a child, Arnold Richardson knew that the arts were powerful vehicles for expressing cultural identity. His parents, Quetta Thomas, of the Tuscarora-Iroquois Confederacy in New York and Samuel Richardson, a Haliwa-Saponi from Hollister, North Carolina, met and married in Philadelphia. They raised their son in the city among generations of Native American urbanites from many tribes. Arnold continues to walk the line between cultures. He has held workshops for the Coharie, the Waccamaw-Sioux, the Lumbee and other tribal groups in North Carolina, and has written a textbook of Eastern Woodland Indian Arts.

Learn more about Arnold Richardson by visiting his profile page.

2007 North Carolina Heritage Award Recipients

North Carolina Arts Council

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Walter and Ray Davenport, Mike Harman, Orville Hicks, Senora Lynch, and George Shuffler

Since 1989, the North Carolina Heritage Award has honored our state’s most eminent traditional artists and practitioners. Recipients of the Heritage Awards range from internationally acclaimed musicians to folks who quietly practice their art in family and community settings. Awardees receive a cash award and are honored in a ceremony that draws large and enthusiastic audiences. Several North Carolinians have gone on to receive the National Heritage Fellowship Awards presented by the National Endowment for the Arts.

These awards deepen our awareness of North Carolina’s diverse cultural traditions, and their importance to our state’s past, present and future.

Heritage Award recipients are nominated by citizens of the state and selected through panel process.

Explore podcast and video tributes to these artists for their individual artistic accomplishments and for representing the cultural treasures found in our communities small and large, rural and urban.


 

Walter and Ray Davenport

Although not raised in a fishing family, when brothers Ray and Walter Davenport embarked on their fishing careers they worked alongside experienced fishermen who shared with them their knowledge of the water, the nets, and the fish. “It was such a fascination to watch the older fishermen.  We’d sit around and talk to them and pick up bits of information.  And through trial and error and years of work, you learned what would work and what wouldn’t work.  And the more you learn about it, the better you can do it,” explains Ray. The brothers mastered the art of net making and repairing, but did not stop there. The Davenports build boats designed to work with their nets. 

Learn more about Walter and Ray Davenport by visiting their profile page.

  

Mike Harman

A visit to Mike Harman’s workshop in Ashe County is a lesson in the history of Southern Appalachian weaving traditions. Mike is a direct descendent of John Owen Goodwin, a silk weaver from Macclesfield, England, whose son James immigrated to the United States in 1837 and established a weaving business in Maryland.  Subsequent generations of Goodwins entered the trade and eventually operated mills in Virginia, West Virginia and Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. They produced woven goods of wool, such as blankets and shawls, and also specialized in the manufacture of linsey-woolsey, a combination of cotton and wool. In 1952, the family moved to North Carolina and established Goodwin Guild Weavers in Blowing Rock. Mike’s Aunt Mary, keeper of the family stories, lives there still. Mike and his wife Dana carry on the family weaving legacy under the name Buffalo Creek Weavers. 

Learn more about Mike Harman by visiting his profile page.

  

Orville Hicks

Since his first nervous night telling ghost stories to an enthusiastic festival crowd, Orville Hicks has told stories at fiddler conventions, public schools, weddings, family reunions, and academic conferences.  He even transformed his job site, the Aho Road Recycling Station, into an impromptu storytelling venue.  Local residents, summer visitors and students from Appalachian State University who re-cycled wastes on the days Orville worked were regaled with a mix of jokes, riddles and personal anecdotes. In addition to public performances, Orville has recorded CDs, appeared on video, and collaborated with writers on articles and books.  

Learn more about Orville Hicks by visiting his profile page.

  

Senora Lynch

The homeland of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe lies nestled at the intersection of Halifax, Warren, Franklin and Nash counties in the northeastern Piedmont. Senora Lynch, born in Philadelphia, returned to this area with her mother and six brothers and sisters at the death of her father in the late 1960s.  They settled near her grandfather, James William Mills, a man well known for his skills as carpenter, chairmaker, and artist.  At ease with elders and a good listener, at fourteen Senora was told to help assist a pottery class for seniors.  She loved the clay, and though pottery traditions did not play a role in community life, she heard the old women recalling being taught to coil clay in their childhoods.  She felt the pull of the clay the next fifteen years, and then she sat down to learn her craft.  Senora Lynch’s reputation now reaches far beyond the borders of tribe, state and nation. 

Learn more about Senora Lynch by visiting her profile page.

  

George Shuffler

George Shuffler makes his home in the countryside near Valdese in Burke County and considers himself a fortunate man.  He made a living as a professional musician and enjoyed success in two realms of traditional music—bluegrass and southern gospel. In both, he made artistic contributions that continue to inspire musicians and listeners today.  At home, George would hear his father “thump around” on the banjo. When George expressed an interest, his father traded for a guitar.  One of his father’s co-workers in a local textile mill taught George three basic chords and he soon began improvising “homemade” accompaniment inspired by musicians he heard on radio and records. 

Learn more about George Shuffler by visiting his profile page.

2000 North Carolina Heritage Award Recipients

North Carolina Arts Council

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Reverend Faircloth C. Barnes, Amanda Crowe, Marvin Gaster, Bobby McMillon, Melvin Lee Owens, and James Allen Rose

Since 1989, the North Carolina Heritage Award has honored our state’s most eminent traditional artists and practitioners. Recipients of the Heritage Awards range from internationally acclaimed musicians to folks who quietly practice their art in family and community settings. Awardees receive a cash award and are honored in a ceremony that draws large and enthusiastic audiences. Several North Carolinians have gone on to receive the National Heritage Fellowship Awards presented by the National Endowment for the Arts.

These awards deepen our awareness of North Carolina’s diverse cultural traditions, and their importance to our state’s past, present and future.

Heritage Award recipients are nominated by citizens of the state and selected through panel process.

Explore podcast and video tributes to these artists for their individual artistic accomplishments and for representing the cultural treasures found in our communities small and large, rural and urban.


 

Reverend Faircloth C. Barnes

"I tell people, when we're off somewhere singing, 'Well, I sing like I look,'" jokes the Reverend Faircloth Barnes.  "They say, 'How's that?'  And I say, 'Old timey.'  That's how I define my style—more or less the old original gospel, like back when we were singing without music." The commercial success of Reverend Barnes's old-time singing makes him an anomaly in today's gospel marketplace.  He has more than a hundred songs to his credit, including "Rough Side of the Mountain," which claimed the number one spot on the gospel charts for months in 1983. 

Learn more about Reverend Faircloth C. Barnes by visiting his profile page.

  

Amanda Crowe

Like many traditional artists, Cherokee carver Amanda Crowe first learned her craft by watching others. She was drawing and carving by the age of four, and she was selling her carvings of animals and birds by the age of eight. " I was barely big enough to handle a knife," she says, "but I knew what I wanted to do so I just whittled away. I guess it was part of my heritage." Amanda Crowe successfully combined the roles of artist and teacher and has received numerous honors and awards for her work. She is quick to say that the most satisfying reward she has received is knowing she has taught hundreds of Cherokee students to carry on in the tradition of their ancestors.

Learn more Amanda Crowe by visiting her profile page.

  

Marvin Gaster

When Marvin Gaster was twelve years old, he saw a banjo for sale in W. F. Cheater's Music Store in Sanford, North Carolina.  It took all the money he had saved plus some from his mother to cover the thirty-six-dollar cost.  Now that banjo playing has become second nature, he reflects on his early impulse to make music.  "It's just a God-given talent that I was born with," he says.  "There's some people that struggle with something they can't do.  And I'm not much for that.  But the music I can do, and I enjoy doing.”

Learn more about Marvin Gaster by visiting his profile page.

  

Bobby McMillon

Born in Lenoir in 1951, Robert Lynn "Bobby" McMillon was heir to numerous strands of Appalachian culture.  From his father's family in Cocke County, Tennessee, he learned Primitive Baptist hymns, and traditional stories and ballads.  From his mother's people in Yancy and Mitchell Counties, North Carolina, he heard "booger tales, haint tales," and legends about the murder of a relative named Charlie Silver.  In Caldwell County he went to school with relatives of Tom Dula, learned their family stories, and heard ballads, gospel songs, and Carter family recordings.

Learn more about Bobby McMillon by visiting his profile page.

  

Melvin Lee Owens

When pressed to explain how he makes a pot, Melvin Owens says matter-of-factly, “Well, you have a shape in your mind and you make it.”  At his wheel for more than seventy-five years, he has become the consummate production potter, able to turn dozens of pie dishes, vases, and other wares in no time at all and with seemingly little effort.  Many of the shapes he makes, such as churns and cream risers, are from the Moore and Randolph County pottery tradition.  Other shapes are distinctly his own, especially his teapots, tall and graceful with spouts that flow like a swan's neck.

Learn more about Melvin Lee Owens by visiting his profile page.

  

James Allen Rose

“I started carving out six-and eight-inch hulls when I was ten,” recalls James Allen Rose, a lifelong resident of Harkers Island.  “I had to carve them out with an old pocket knife.  Me and other boys spent a lot of time by the shore playing with model skiffs.  When they saw my little skiffs bobbing up and down, they thought they were outstanding.  I traded them to friends for marbles, spin-tops, and other things.”

Learn more about James Allen Rose by visiting his profile page.

2003 North Carolina Heritage Award Recipients

North Carolina Arts Council

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

The Briarhoppers, Celia Cole Perkinson & Neolia Cole Womack, Emmett Parker Jones, Bishop Dready Manning, Oscar “Red” Wilson, and Jerry Wolfe

Since 1989, the North Carolina Heritage Award has honored our state’s most eminent traditional artists and practitioners. Recipients of the Heritage Awards range from internationally acclaimed musicians to folks who quietly practice their art in family and community settings. Awardees receive a cash award and are honored in a ceremony that draws large and enthusiastic audiences. Several North Carolinians have gone on to receive the National Heritage Fellowship Awards presented by the National Endowment for the Arts.

These awards deepen our awareness of North Carolina’s diverse cultural traditions, and their importance to our state’s past, present and future.

Heritage Award recipients are nominated by citizens of the state and selected through panel process.

Explore podcast and video tributes to these artists for their individual artistic accomplishments and for representing the cultural treasures found in our communities small and large, rural and urban.


 

The Briarhoppers

From 1935 to 1951, six days a week, radio listeners all over North Carolina tuned to WBT in Charlotte to hear a group of stringband musicians regale them with fiddle breakdowns, gospel tunes, lively waltzes and sweet love ballads.  Through these radio broadcasts and thousands of personal appearances, the Briarhoppers have kept older musical traditions before the public while helping to launch the country and western music industry.

Learn more about The Briarhoppers by visiting their profile page.

  

Celia Cole Perkinson and Neolia Cole Womack

Pottery made by Neolia Cole Womack and Celia Cole Perkinson reveals a flair that has come to characterize their branch of the Coles, one of North Carolina’s oldest pottery-making families.  Both sisters started turning when they were young children, literally growing up in their father’s shop.  After more than six decades of making pots, their work still shows their creative edge.

Learn more about Celia and Neolia Cole by visiting their profile page.

  

Emmett Parker Jones

“I was raised in my father’s shop,” says fourth generation wheelwright Emmett Parker Jones.  His earliest memories of working with his father began when he was about three years old and standing on a five-gallon cottonseed bucket to reach the crank to the blower that fired his father’s forge.  “By the time I ever got out of high school,” he reports, “I was building wheels on my own.”

Learn more about Emmett Parker Jones by visiting his profile page.

  

Bishop Dready Manning

“The Lord gave me this way of playing,” explains Bishop Dready Manning, “and He told me to use it in His service.  So that’s just what I’m doing.” Bishop Manning has brought full-voiced singing, fluent guitar picking, and exuberant harmonica playing to African American churches in Halifax and Northampton counties for forty years.  He plays in a musical style that he mastered as a teenager in the early 1940s, a style most often associated with the southeastern blues.  In his hands, it becomes a powerful vehicle for vernacular gospel.

Learn more about Bishop Dready Manning by visiting his profile page.

  

Oscar "Red" Wilson

Growing up in Avery County before World War II, Red Wilson learned fiddle and banjo tunes that have their origins in the pioneer musical traditions of western North Carolina.  Many of these came from his close relatives, the Ledfords, who lived in neighboring Mitchell County where Red eventually moved.  The Ledfords were known for their large repertory of older pieces and their skillful performances.  “Anytime you wanted to hear music, just go to their house and they’d play,” he remembers.  “You’d get them started and they would go all night.”

Learn more about Oscar "Red" Wilson by visiting his profile page.

  

Jerry Wolfe

An elder in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Jerry Wolfe is a master of Cherokee stories and other traditions that are central to Cherokee culture in western North Carolina.  Through cultural outreach programs of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, he talks to thousands who visit the Qualla Boundary.  He also assists teachers in the Cherokee schools.  When the tribal community rededicated the Kituwah mound at the site of the mother-town of the Cherokee, he was a natural choice to offer a prayer in the Cherokee language.

Learn more about Jerry Wolfe by visiting his profile page.

1998 North Carolina Heritage Award Recipients

North Carolina Arts Council

Monday, June 1, 1998

Bessie Killens Eldreth, Louise Bigmeat Maney, Smith McInnis, Ossie Clark Phillips, Arthur Smith, Arliss Watford, and Jerry and Ray Wilson

Since 1989, the North Carolina Heritage Award has honored our state’s most eminent traditional artists and practitioners. Recipients of the Heritage Awards range from internationally acclaimed musicians to folks who quietly practice their art in family and community settings. Awardees receive a cash award and are honored in a ceremony that draws large and enthusiastic audiences. Several North Carolinians have gone on to receive the National Heritage Fellowship Awards presented by the National Endowment for the Arts.

These awards deepen our awareness of North Carolina’s diverse cultural traditions, and their importance to our state’s past, present and future.

Heritage Award recipients are nominated by citizens of the state and selected through panel process.

Explore podcast and video tributes to these artists for their individual artistic accomplishments and for representing the cultural treasures found in our communities small and large, rural and urban.


 

Bessie Killens Eldreth

Bessie Eldreth has claimed song as a constant companion.  “I sing most of the time when I’m alone—just sing, sing, sing,” she says.  Like many North Carolina mountain women, she has privately enriched her own life and the lives of her family and friends with song.  With little time or opportunity to learn a musical instrument, she has made her voice her instrument, and she has accompanied everyday living with hundreds of old ballads, gospel songs and hymns, and a variety of parlor songs that struck her fancy.

Learn more about Bessie Killens Eldreth by visiting her profile page.

  

Louise Bigmeat Maney

I was exposed to pottery through my mother.  She made pottery and--all the girls in our family--we made pottery,” says Louise Bigmeat Maney.  Louise’s mother, Charlotte Welch Bigmeat, and aunt Maude Welch were both prominent Cherokee potters.  But Louise traces her pottery lineage back to Ewi Katalsta, the last conservator of pottery among the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians by the turn of the century. “I was about six or seven when I started doing pottery,” Louise says.  “When I was a girl growing up, we used to dig our own clay up here near the Macedonia Church on the creek bank.”

Learn more Louise Bigmeat Maney by visiting her profile page.

  

Smith McInnis

Beginning in the 1730s the Cape Fear River valley in southeastern North Carolina became the destination for thousands of Scottish Highlanders.  Their influence is evident today in the names of communities in the region—Aberdeen, Dundarrach, Tobermory, Laurinburg—and in the strength of the Presbyterian Church there.  Smith McInnis, who is a descendant of these immigrants, keeps alive musical traditions shaped by his Scots ancestors. Born and raised in the Hoke County farmhouse built by his great-grandfather, Angus McInnis, Smith heard much fiddle music as a child. 

Learn more about Smith McInnis by visiting his profile page.

  

Ossie Clark Phillips

Ossie Clark Phillips has been a weaver most of her life.  She was born in 1915, shortly after Dr. Mary Martin Sloop and her husband Dr. Eustace Sloop established the Crossnore School a mile from her home in the mountains of Avery County.  When the school opened its weaving program and her mother learned to weave, a new way of life opened for Ossie Clark.  “My mama had a loom at home, and I’d slip to her loom when she wasn’t there,” Ossie says, recalling her own early fascination with weaving.  All of the Clark children took a turn at the loom, she reports.  “The boys learned to weave, the girls learned to weave, and if one wasn’t on the loom a-working, another would be.”  For the Clarks, like other mountain families in the area, sales of handwoven goods made by women brought much-needed income amid the uncertainties of subsistence farming.

Learn more about Ossie Clark Phillips by visiting her profile page.

  

Arthur Smith

Through radio, television, and sound recordings, Arthur Smith has entertained audiences in the Carolinas for over sixty years and achieved national and international recognition as a composer and performer of country and gospel music. Born in the mill town of Kershaw, South Carolina, Arthur was exposed to music at an early age.  “Two things mill companies did well for the community,” he recalls.  “They sponsored a baseball team and a town band.”  Arthur’s father, who worked as a loom fixer, was asked to direct the town’s brass band.  Not surprisingly, Arthur’s first instrument was the trumpet, and jazz musicians Louis Armstrong and Django Reinhart were among his early influences.  He also learned fiddle and guitar and before long could play a variety of stringed instruments.

Learn more about Arthur Smith by visiting his profile page.

  

Arliss Watford

Stepping into Arliss Watford’s workshop in Ahoskie is like stepping into a museum of community history.  Located within six miles of where he was born and raised, his shop offers shelf upon shelf of woodcarvings that chronicle scenes from African American life in rural Hertford Couny.  His carvings capture likenesses of friends and family members, bear witness to his deep faith, and reveal the whimsical play of his imagination.  Together, they tell a story of creative work that has spanned more than seven decades.

Learn more about Arliss Watford by visiting his profile page.

  

The Wilson Brothers

I know that there’s a gift, a natural gift, that a lot of people have more of than others,” says Ray Wilson.  “But if you don’t work on that to perfection, you don’t ever do much with it.”  Ray and his brother Jerry have approached their music with this idea firmly in mind.  Influenced by the brother duos that had their heyday in the 1930s, the Wilsons have worked out precise harmonies for the duets that have become the signature of their style.  By their own choice, the Wilson Brothers have focused their efforts on singing gospel, even when they could have enjoyed greater financial gain and attention by performing other types of music.

Learn more about The Wilson Brothers by visiting their profile page.

1996 North Carolina Heritage Award Recipients

North Carolina Arts Council

Tuesday, May 14, 1996

Robert Bushyhead, Verlen Clifton & Paul Sutphin, Nell Cole Graves, Elizabeth “Lee” Graham Jacobs, Doch Rmah, and Earl Scruggs

Since 1989, the North Carolina Heritage Award has honored our state’s most eminent traditional artists and practitioners. Recipients of the Heritage Awards range from internationally acclaimed musicians to folks who quietly practice their art in family and community settings. Awardees receive a cash award and are honored in a ceremony that draws large and enthusiastic audiences. Several North Carolinians have gone on to receive the National Heritage Fellowship Awards presented by the National Endowment for the Arts.

These awards deepen our awareness of North Carolina’s diverse cultural traditions, and their importance to our state’s past, present and future.

Heritage Award recipients are nominated by citizens of the state and selected through panel process.

Explore podcast and video tributes to these artists for their individual artistic accomplishments and for representing the cultural treasures found in our communities small and large, rural and urban.


 

Robert H. Bushyhead

Cherokee tribal elder Robert Henry Bushyhead called his native Kituhwa dialect a gift of the Great Spirit.  With the help of his daughter Jean Blanton, a teacher in the Cherokee schools, he devoted the last years of his life to documenting this legacy.  That preservation process began many years ago, however, when he not only developed a love of his native language but also a gift for telling the stories of what it meant to him and to the Cherokee people. 

Learn more about Robert H. Busyhead by visiting his profile page.

  

Verlin Clifton & Paul Sutphin

Situated at the foot of the Blue Ridge in Surry County, the tiny community of Round Peak has produced many of North Carolina's finest old-time musicians.  Most families who live there can recall older relatives who played the fiddle or banjo and helped evolve a repertory and style of playing that was unique to the community.  Paul Sutphin and Verlen Clifton are neighbors from Round Peak who built upon the fiddle and banjo ensemble tradition to develop a powerful brand of stringband music.  Their playing has earned the admiration of local residents and attracted the attention of old-time music enthusiasts throughout the country.

Learn more Verlin Clifton & Paul Sutphin by visiting their profile page.

  

Nell Cole Graces

For more than two centuries, pottery makers from the Cole family have lived and worked in Randolph and Moore counties.  Until the early 1920s, they were typical of other potters in the region in that only the men in the family made the wares.  Women and children helped with digging and preparing the clay, glazing the pots, and loading the kilns, but men did the turning and ran the business themselves. Nell Cole Graves helped transform this system shortly after World War I.  She became the first woman to turn wares on the old treadle wheel and the first woman to take on a major role in the business.  Born in 1908 near Seagrove in northern Montgomery County, Nell got an early start at her life's work. 

Learn more about Nell Cole Graves by visiting her profile page.

  

Elizabeth "Lee" Graham Jacobs

For eighty-four years, Lee Jacobs has lived in Columbus County in the Waccamaw Siouan community of Buckhead within two and a half miles of where she was born.  Most of that time she has been a quilter.  "Honey, I could make a pretty stitch when I was eight years old," she says. "Miss Lee," as she is known to many in the community, learned to piece quilts from her grandmother.  Her grandmother's mother was also a quilter.  "I reckon it was born in me to love to quilt," she says, and remembers working hard at it even though she was very young.  "You can't show a child too early that's wanting to learn," she believes.  "My grandma would give me some of her scraps.  I'd sit right there beside her.  She'd trim hers and cut them little ends and pieces, that's what she gave me to sew."

Learn more about Elizabeth "Lee" Graham Jacobs by visiting her profile page.

  

Dock Rmah

"I was born March 1, 1942, in Plei Thoh, Pleiku Province, Vietnam," begins Dock Rmah when he tells the story of his life, his music, and his resettlement in Greensboro.  Multiple references to his people suggest some of the historical complexities of that story.  He is "Jarai," one of the many traditional ethnic groups that have lived in the mountainous regions of central Vietnam since ancient times.  The French, who occupied Vietnam for nearly a century, referred to them all simply as "Montagnards"--mountaineers.  Those who banded together as resistance fighters after American ground forces withdrew from Vietnam in 1973 called themselves "Dega," combining names of mythic heroes they held in common.  Dock Rmah, like other Dega, left Vietnam in the early 1980s for sanctuary in Thailand and for eventual resettlement in the United States in 1986.

Learn more about Dock Rmah by visiting his profile page.

  

Earl Scruggs

Great individual creativity and deep community traditions are ingredients for nurturing extraordinary artistry.  These conditions certainly hold true in the case of Earl Scruggs.  He has drawn upon his own virtuosity and the musical traditions of western North Carolina to create music that speaks to audiences throughout the world. Born in the small community of Flint Hill in Cleveland County, Earl grew up surrounded by music makers. His mother played the organ, his father the fiddle and banjo, and four of his sisters and brothers played both banjo and guitar.  "Probably no other family enjoyed music and singing more than we did," he writes.  "The banjo stayed in my mind most of the time, if I was playing with friends or working on the farm."

Learn more about Earl Scruggs by visiting his profile page.

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