FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oklahoma City (June 16, 2021) – Anita Fields (Osage/Muscogee) of Stillwater has been named a 2021 National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts. The distinction is given to master folk and traditional artists who have made significant contributions to the nation’s traditional arts heritage. Fields is the seventh Oklahoman to earn the prestigious award, the first since Wanda Jackson was awarded a fellowship in 2005.
Since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts has honored America’s rich artistic heritage through the National Heritage Fellowship program, awarding 458 fellowships to artists in more than 200 distinct art forms. It is the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. The nine fellows selected in 2021 will each receive $25,000 and will be featured in a film that will debut November 17, 2021, on arts.gov, as part of the fellowship awards presentation.
Ann Eilers, acting chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts, said, “The diverse art forms of the National Heritage Fellows allow us to experience and appreciate the rich cultural traditions that make up America. It is inspiring how these artistic practices continue the legacy of generations past, while blending contemporary elements as they continue into the future.”
A multi-disciplinary artist whose career spans more than 40 years, Fields is considered both a perpetuator of longstanding Osage practices and an originator of contemporary ones. Born in Hominy, Oklahoma, Fields was heavily influenced by her grandmother, who nurtured in Fields a deep reverence for the significance of Osage clothing worn for cultural gatherings. Fields studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and eventually honed a method of transcribing her textile designs and the unique style of Osage ribbon work into clay. Her approach reflects the worldview and cultural knowledge found in Osage culture.
Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples said, “Oklahoma is home to many artists who through great skill and mastery are carrying on living traditions rooted deeply in the cultures of the people of our state. Anita exemplifies the essential value of preserving these practices and supporting them to the fullest extent, as they are synonymous with our state’s identity – past, present, and future. She is very deserving of an award as esteemed as the National Heritage Fellowship.”
Fields said, “I am extremely grateful to receive this award. It affectionately brings to mind every relative, teacher, or mentor who encouraged me to pick up a needle and thread, to shape clay, and to connect my heart and hands as a means of expression. Their ability to understand the power of creativity in our lives and culture inspired me to keep dreaming and most importantly, how to have hope."
“Art is a vital form of storytelling for our tribe,” said Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear. “Anita Fields is a valued cultural contributor, and we are grateful to have her in our community. On behalf of the Osage Nation, I’d like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to her for this well-deserved award.”
National Heritage Fellows must have a record of continuing artistic accomplishment and be actively participating in their art form. Nominations are submitted by members of the public.
Oklahomans who have earned National Heritage Fellowships include Georgeann Robinson (1982), Doc Tate Nevaquaya (1986), Vanessa Paukeigope Jennings (1989), Bruce Caesar (1998), Fred Tsoodle (2001), and Wanda Jackson (2005). A full list of National Heritage Fellows is available at arts.gov.
A Tulsa Artist Fellow since 2017, Fields recently earned a prestigious 2021 Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship. In 2019-2020, her work was part of the landmark traveling exhibition, “Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists.” Among her other notable exhibitions are “Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now” at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and “Legacy of Generations: Pottery by American Indian Women” at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Fields’ work is in permanent collections at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Art and Design in New York City, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Her work “Looking Over the Invisible Line” is part of the Oklahoma State Art Collection.
Folk and traditional arts
The National Endowment for the Arts defines the folk and traditional arts as rooted in and reflective of the cultural life of a community. The constantly reinvigorated artistic traditions are shaped by values and standards of excellence that are passed from generation to generation, often within family and community. Genres included, but are not limited to, music, dance, crafts, and oral expression.
About the Oklahoma Arts Council
The Oklahoma Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts. The agency’s mission is to lead in the advancement of Oklahoma’s thriving arts industry. The Oklahoma Arts Council provides more than 425 grants to nearly 270 organizations in communities statewide each year, organizes professional development opportunities for the state's arts and cultural industry, and manages the art collections at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Additional information is available at arts.ok.gov.