Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers Honored


Three quilters from Boykin, Alabama (Gee’s Bend) have been awarded the 2015 National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest award for folk and traditional arts.

Mingo-Bendolph-PettwayMary Lee Bendolph, Loretta Pettway, and Lucy Mingo

We’re privileged to share with you a portion of the press release from the National Endowment for the Arts announcing the recipients. Gee’s Bend quilters Mary Lee Bendolph, Loretta Pettway, and Lucy Mingo represent the art of quilting among a list of fine master folk and traditional artists. Click HERE to read about each of these women, and to see a sample of their work.

From the National Endowment for the Arts
Washington, DC, June 9, 2015

One of the strengths of our nation is our constantly evolving artistic landscape. Each year the National Endowment for the Arts celebrates master folk and traditional artists that embody this strength and diversity of culture. The recipients of this year’s NEA National Heritage Fellowships represent art forms ranging from those born and bred in the United States – such as the quilters of Gee’s Bend from Alabama – to those that are newer to our country – such as the oud playing of Rahim AlHaj, who immigrated to the United States from Baghdad. The fellowships include an award of $25,000.

“The art forms represented in this year’s class of National Heritage Fellows are wide-ranging,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Not surprisingly, the artists have a common bond in their efforts to both share their art forms within their communities and across the nation, while also ensuring their art forms are passed along to the next generation through teaching and mentoring. I look forward to celebrating these talented artists, their commitment, and their artistry in Washington, DC, next fall.”

The 2015 NEA National Heritage Fellowship recipients are:

Rahim AlHaj (Albuquerque, NM) — oud player & composer
Michael Alpert (New York, NY) — Yiddish musician and tradition bearer
Mary Lee Bendolph, Lucy Mingo, and Loretta Pettway (Boykin, AL) — quilters of Gee’s Bend
Dolly Jacobs (Sarasota, FL) — circus aerialist
Yary Livan (Lowell, MA) — Cambodian ceramicist
Daniel Sheehy* (Falls Church, VA) — ethnomusicologist/folklorist
Drink Small (Columbia, SC) — blues artist
Gertrude Yukie Tsutsumi (Honolulu, HI) — Japanese classical dancer
Sidonka Wadina (Lyons, WI) — Slovak straw artist/egg decorator

*Daniel Sheehy is the recipient of the Bess Lomax Hawes NEA National Heritage Fellowship Award. The Bess Lomax Hawes Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage.

Profiles of the artists are available in the Lifetime Honors section of the NEA’s website, along with photos and audio and video samples of their work.

With the announcement of this 2015 class, the NEA has awarded 404 National Heritage Fellowships, recognizing master artists working in more than 200 distinct art forms, including 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.

– See more from the NEA HERE.


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Dixie Alms

I was honored to meet these women in Mattoon, IL in March, 2014 when I was visiting family. Since I live in Alaska, I’d never heard of Gee’s Bend, their quilts or the quilters. It was a privilege to see their works and to meet and listen to them! They are receiving honors that are well deserved!