Cowboy poet Joel Nelson receives NEA National Heritage Fellowship


NEA National Heritage Fellowships Celebrations Upcoming

Cowboy poet Joel Nelson of Alpine, Texas, recipient of nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts

Washington, D.C. – Eleven master artists from around the country, representing eleven distinct folk and traditional arts, will be honored in Washington, D.C. the week of September 21st for events celebrating their receipt of a 2009 National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. The fellowship is the highest form of federal recognition of the folk and traditional arts. Representing a cross-section of cultures, including cowboy, South Asian, Appalachian, and West African, and preserving such diverse art forms as accordion-driven zydeco, willow basketry, and New England contra dance, these awardees were chosen for their artistic excellence and contributions to our nation’s living cultural heritage. The fellowship includes a one-time award of $25,000. The NEA National Heritage Fellowships public programs are made possible through the support of the Darden Restaurants Foundation and its family of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, and Seasons 52 restaurants.

After working for the U.S. Forest Service and serving in the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, Joel Nelson pursued cowboy work on Texas ranches. He spent 13 years at the 06 Ranch near Alpine, Texas, and as a horse breaker for the King Ranch in Texas and the Parker Ranch in Hawaii. An attendee at the second Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, Nelson was instrumental in founding the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the second-oldest of such events. As a reciter, he is known throughout the West for his delivery of the classic cowboy repertoire; and as a writer of poems, he has penned works that are rapidly assuming the status of standards. His The Breaker in the Pen is the only cowboy poetry recording ever nominated for a Grammy. He and his wife Sylvia work side-by-side horseback operating the 24,000 acre Anchor Ranch near Alpine where they raise Corriente cattle.

This month, Mr. Nelson will be coming to Washington, DC for a series of events including:

. Capitol Hill Awards Ceremony: Tuesday, September 22 at 5:30 p.m., Senate Caucus Room (Room 325) in the Russell Senate Office Building

. NEA National Heritage Fellowships Concert: Thursday, September 24 at 7:30 p.m., Music Center at Strathmore

We will have numerous photos from these events to share. The concert in particular, where all of the honorees perform and display their work, is a lively, one-of-a-kind event that always generates great photographs.

Here’s a link to more details on the events:

Here’s a link to a bio and in-depth audio interview the NEA conducted with Joel Nelson: