Snowshoe Designers Paul and Darlene Bergren Receive 2012 NEA National Heritage Fellowship

Dog sled and snowshoe designers and builders Paul & Darlene Bergren of Minot, N.D., are among the recipients of the 2012 NEA National Heritage Fellowships, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

Paul Bergren built his first sled in 1978 and has since developed into one of the premier sled designers in the country, seamlessly blending aesthetics and function. Today, he and his wife Darlene run a sled-making business in Minot, N.D., and Paul’s sleds—widely respected for their craftsmanship—are used by champion racers across the globe, including several champions of the grueling Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska.

“At the NEA, we are working to invest in, support, and celebrate all the arts in this country,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. “From the tidewater gospel traditions of the Paschall Brothers to Mike Auldridge’s innovative approach to the Dobro and Andy Statman’s work in reviving klezmer music, these nine NEA National Heritage Fellows are not only national leaders in their art forms, but also leaders of their communities in which they live, work, and create.”

The 2012 awardees will travel to Washington, D.C., in October for a series of events, including an awards presentation and banquet at the Library of Congress, as well as a concert scheduled for Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. at the George Washington University Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C. Free tickets will be available this fall. Check the NEA website for more details.

The 2012 honorees join the ranks of previous Heritage Fellows, including bluesman B.B. King, Cajun fiddler and composer Michael Doucet, cowboy poet Wally McRae, gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples, and bluegrass musician Bill Monroe. Since 1982, the Arts Endowment has awarded 368 NEA National Heritage Fellowships. Fellowship recipients are nominated by the public, often by members of their own communities, and then judged by a panel of experts in folk and traditional arts on the basis of their continuing artistic accomplishments and contributions as practitioners and teachers. This year the panel reviewed 200 nominations for the nine fellowships. The ratio of winners to nominees indicates the select nature of this national honor.

For more information on the NEA’s National Heritage Fellowships, including bios, interviews, and audio selections for the NEA National Heritage Fellows; portraits of more than 155 NEA National Heritage Fellows by Tom Pich; and publications such as a 30th anniversary publication featuring a DVD-Rom, created by Documentary Arts, with photos, videos, and audio recordings of all the Heritage Fellows, and a Masters of Traditional Arts Education Guide, visit arts.gov.

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Ryan Alford

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