Virginia Folklife Program

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Holmes Brothers Receive NEA’s National Heritage Fellowship

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that gospel and soul legends The Holmes Brothers of Christchurch, Virginia, have just received the NEA’s National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor the United States bestows upon traditional artists. For nearly 40 years, brothers Wendell and Sherman Holmes, along with friend and neighbor Popsy Dixon, have shared their stunning harmonies and instrumentation with adoring fans across the globe. We could not be more proud!

The National Endowment for the Arts annually awards up to nine NEA National Heritage Fellowships to master folk and traditional artists to honor and preserve our nation’s diverse cultural heritage. These fellowships recognize lifetime achievement, artistic excellence, and contributions to our nation’s traditional arts heritage. See the NEA’s full list of 2014 National Heritage Fellows.

Virginia boasts fourteen National Heritage Award Winners:



HoustonFest 2014: Jewel of Festival Circuit

Three of four Steve Martin prize-winners, from left Jens KrŸuger, Sammy Shelor and Mark Johnson.

Three of four Steve Martin prize-winners, from left Jens KrŸuger, Sammy Shelor and Mark Johnson.

The city of Galax came alive in early May for the fourth annual Houstonfest. Born out of a community’s grief over the tragic passing of Houston Caldwell, a gifted banjoist and dedicated contributor to the civic life of Galax, Houstonfest has quietly become one of the true jewels of the Virginia festival circuit. Under gorgeous skies, the thousands who flocked to Felt’s Park were treated to stellar sets by such luminaries of bluegrass as Ralph Stanley, the Whites, Sammy Shelor and the Lonesome River Band, and many others. Ricky Skaggs, husband of Sharon White, made a surprise appearance and joined both Stanley and the Whites on stage in memorable performances.


Amazing artists take Charlottesville from Africa to Appalachia

Pure magic happened in Charlottesville as Master Malian Griot Cheick Hamala Diabate joined two of Virginia’s finest traditional musicians, Sammy Shelor and Danny Knicely, for three days of musical collaboration and fellowship. In town for a three day residency, these three amazing artists got together for private jam sessions, a public workshop at the Bridge PAI, a visit to WTJU FM, and a program for students at Jackson-Via Elementary School. The signature event of the week was a scintillating evening performance to a standing-room-only crowd at the Jefferson School. The artists were joined by Hamala’s full band, as well as fine local artists Nate Leath, Aimee Curl, and Madeline Holly Sales of Beleza Brasil. More than a history lesson, the evening featured three contemporary artists at the peak of their game, and spoke to the transformative and boundary crossing power of music.

MAAF_new_logo_color_smallThis Mid Atlantic Folk Arts Outreach Project was funded by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

We also thank our producing partners: WTJU 91.1 FM, the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, and The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative.

Featured Video

Oyster Shucking at the Folklife Apprentice Showcase 2012

Deborah Pratt defeated her sister Clementine Macon in an oyster-shucking showdown at the Virginia Folklife Program’s Apprentice Showcase on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012.

Watch Video >>