NEA Mourns the Passing of Esther Martinez
September 17, 2006
The staff of the National Endowment for the Arts is mourning the sudden death of NEA National Heritage Fellow Esther Martinez of Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico and the injury of her daughters in a car accident on the evening of September 16.
From September 13 through 15, Esther Martinez joined 11 other folk and traditional artists who were honored in Washington, DC in celebration of being named NEA National Heritage Fellows. The award is the nation's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. The family reportedly was returning home following their time in Washington.
Esther Martinez (Ohkay Owingeh, NM) receives her 2006 NEA National Heritage Fellowship award from National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia (right) and U.S. Representative Tom Udall (left) at an award ceremony in Washington, DC on September 14. Photo by Tom Pich
At a banquet in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress, Esther received a standing ovation from the guests for her stories and life's work, creating cultural bridges through her native Tewa language and traditions.
On September 14, she was joined by U.S. Representative Tom Udall at an award ceremony on Capitol Hill. Rep. Udall spoke eloquently of Esther's contributions and presented her with a plaque. And finally on Friday, September 15, Esther appeared on stage as part of the NEA National Heritage Fellows concert. Folklorist and emcee Nick Spitzer interviewed Ester before a delighted audience at the Music Center at Strathmore.
"New Mexico and the entire country have lost an eloquent link to our past. We can find solace in remembering her lifelong commitment to keeping her culture alive and vibrant. Our prayers are with Esther and her family--and all those who have come to know and love her."
Dana Gioia, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts
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