NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman's Statement on the Death of Bess Lomax Hawes (1921-2009)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
"Bess Lomax Hawes is remembered by her friends at the National Endowment for the Arts for her 16-year tenure as Director of the NEA's Folk & Traditional Arts Program, during which she inspired her colleagues to re-imagine how a federal agency might serve often overlooked artists and communities across this nation.
"Ms. Hawes encouraged -- both through her significant powers of persuasion and through targeted investments -- the establishment of a nationwide network of folk arts specialists at state, regional, and local arts agencies and cultural organizations. Under her leadership, the NEA supported a number of statewide apprenticeship programs, allowing individuals to study a traditional art form with a master artist. In 1982, she initiated the NEA National Heritage Fellowships, honoring master artists as living national treasures.
"After her retirement in 1993, the NEA named a special Heritage Fellowship in Ms. Hawes's honor to recognize the significant contributions of an individual who contributed to the conservation of our nation's artistic heritage through education, advocacy or cultural preservation. In the same year, President Bill Clinton acknowledged her lifetime of work by awarding her a National Medal of Arts.
"Ms. Hawes best sums up her career of public service in her memoir Sing It Pretty with these words:'I have always had the unshakable belief that every single human being has some knowledge of important elements of beauty and substance, whether everybody else knows them or not, and the appropriate introduction of those items of intellectual power into public discourse has been the unswerving thrust of my work, whatever form it took, all my life.'
"Today, we remember the beauty, substance, and intellectual power that Bess Lomax Hawes introduced into public discourse."
Please see a detailed biography of Ms. Hawes.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency