While he has been a country record producer, a door-to-door salesman, a civil rights reporter, and a Madison Avenue consultant, Joe Wilson is most well-known for his work since 1976 as the Executive Director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, the oldest organization in the nation devoted to the presentation of folk arts. From this position, he has had a profound influence on folk and traditional arts programming in this country. His mark can be also be seen in the shaping of national institutions such as the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, the National Park Service, the Arts America program of the United States Information Agency (now in the Department of State), the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. While it may sound as though his contribution has been merely in the arena of cultural policy, his more significant accomplishments can be measured by the many ways in which he has put his passion and commitment to traditional artists into practice.He has organized or given programming direction to nearly 40 folk festivals, including the National Folk Festival that is produced annually by his organization. He has organized 21 national tours by musicians, dancers, and storytellers. He has produced seven international tours and 53 sound recordings. In addition, he has co-written with Lee Udall the book Folk Festivals: A Handbook for Organization and Management. His resume wryly closes with the statement, "Joe Wilson was reared in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Trade, Tennessee's easternmost and oldest community. He has no graduate degrees and is not listed in the Who's Who of anywhere." In spite of that, his work and his inspiring commitment to folk artists is quietly visible everywhere.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency