Maryland Recipients of the NEA National Heritage Fellowship

Maryland Recipients of the NEA National Heritage Fellowship


Rich Smoker and Mama Linda Goss win 2019 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowships

Two Marylanders are the recipients of 2019 National Heritage Fellowships, an award given annually by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for artistic excellence and outstanding support of the folk and traditional arts. The Maryland recipients are wildfowl decoy carver Rich Smoker of Somerset County and storyteller Mama Linda Goss of Baltimore City. They are among only nine recipients chosen from across the country.

Smoker, originally from Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, has spent 50 years creating decoys. His work encompasses the functional, or “working” duck decoys traditionally used by sportsmen during hunting trips on marshes, rivers, and other waterways, as well as the more decorative pieces that fully display his deep knowledge of avian musculature, plumage, and behavior. Smoker is highly recognized in his artistic community, having received a 2008 world title for working decoys from the Ward Foundation, two Apprenticeship Grants and a Heritage Award from the Maryland Traditions state folklife program, and hundreds of trophies and ribbons. In addition to extensive volunteer service for organizations promoting decoy carving and cultural heritage, Smoker is chairman of the board of directors at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University.

Goss, a Tennessee native who spent many years in Philadelphia before making her home in Baltimore, is steeped in the storytelling traditions of African American culture, which encompass folk tales, praise songs, call-and-response narratives, singing, and a host of other verbal art forms. She is the co-founder of the National Association of Black Storytellers, which she founded in Baltimore in 1982 with Mother Mary Carter Smith. A dedicated tradition bearer and the author of seven books, Goss is commonly honored with the moniker Mama Linda by friends and colleagues. She is the recipient of two Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship Grants, along with a recent Project Grant award in aid of How I Got Over, an oral history documentation of African American life and culture in and around Baltimore. Mama Linda produced How I Got Over in collaboration with The Peale Center in Baltimore.

“Our hearts are full knowing that Mama Linda and Rich are receiving our nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts,” said Chad Buterbaugh, director of Maryland Traditions. “We do all we can to support our tradition bearers at the state level. To see them honored at the national level is truly exhilarating.”

Smoker and Goss will each receive a $25,000 award and be honored this fall at public events in Washington, D.C. An award presentation ceremony will be hosted Sept. 18 at the Library of Congress, and a performance and demonstration event will be hosted Sept. 20 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall. Both events are free and open to the public. For further details, visit the NEA website.


Full List of Maryland Recipients of the NEA National Heritage Fellowship 


Left: Storyteller Mama Linda Goss of Baltimore City. Right: Decoy carver Rich Smoker of Somerset County. Photos by Edwin Remsberg Photographs.

Rich Smoker
Decoy carving
Marion Station, MD
Mama Linda Goss
Baltimore, MD
Phil Wiggins
Piedmont blues harmonica
Takoma Park, MD
Billy McComiskey
Button Accordion, Irish music
Parkville, MD
A. Michael "Mike" Vlahovich
Shipwright and Maritime Culture Advocate
St. Michaels, MD/Tacoma, Washington
Singing and Praying Bands of Maryland and Delaware
African-American Sacred Music
The Holmes Brothers
Blues, Gospel and R&B
Rosedale, MD/Saluda, VA
Mike Auldridge
Dobro player
Silver Spring, MD
Warner Williams
Piedmont Blues Songster
Gaithersburg, MD
Mike Seeger*
Musician, Cultural Scholar and Advocate
Baltimore & Silver Spring / Lexington, VA
Roland Freeman*
Photo Documentarian, Author and Curator
Baltimore and Washington, DC
Chuck Brown
African-American Musical Innovator (Go-Go)
Brandywine, MD
Chum Ngek*
Cambodian Musician and Teacher
Gaithersburg, MD
Hazel Dickens
Appalachian Singer-Songwriter
Joe Wilson*
Folklorist, Advocate and Presenter
Silver Spring, MD / Trade, TN
Apsara Ensemble
Cambodian Traditional Dancers and Musicians
Fort Washington, MD
Harilaos Papapostolou
Greek Byzantine Chanter
Potomac, MD
Khatna Peou
Cambodian Court Dancer/Choreographer
Silver Spring, MD
Ola Belle Reed
Appalachian Banjo Picker/Singer
Rising Sun, MD
Lem Ward
Decoy Carver/Painter
Crisfield, MD
* Bess Lomax Hawes Award recipient
The Bess Lomax Hawes Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage.



National Endowment for the Arts Podcasts 

The NEA offers podcasts of former NEA National Heritage Fellows. 

Billy McComiskey

Singing and Praying Bands of Maryland and Delaware

Joe Wilson

2017 NEA National Heritage Fellowships Events in Washington, DC

The NEA will celebrate the 2017 National Heritage Fellows at two events this fall in Washington, DC, both of which are free and open to the public. The NEA National Heritage Fellowships Awards Ceremony will take place at the Library of Congress on Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. and the NEA National Heritage Fellowships Concert will take place on Friday, September 15, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium. Concert tickets are first come, first served and will be available later this summer. The concert will also be webcast live at More information about both of these events will be available later this summer. 

Make a nomination

To honor and preserve our nation's diverse cultural heritage, the National Endowment for the Arts annual awards up to eight NEA National Heritage Fellowships to master folk and traditional artists. These fellowships recognize lifetime achievement, artistic excellence and contributions to our nation's traditional arts heritage. Nominations are accepted by using NEA's online nomination form. Each nomination should have a separate nomination package.