Governor Brad Little Tuesday congratulated Boise-based Basque musician Dan Ansotegui on becoming one of nine recipients of the 2019 National Heritage Fellowships, the highest honor bestowed on folk and traditional artists in the United States.
The National Endowment for the Arts announced the fellowship recipients Tuesday morning. The award recognizes the artistic excellence of tradition bearers and their contributions to our nation’s artistic heritage.
“Idaho is extremely proud of Dan Ansotegui for earning national recognition for his role in keeping the Basque culture alive in Idaho and the region,” Little said. “The story of the Basque people is part of Idaho’s story, and we are grateful that Dan has chosen to direct his artistic and musical talents in this way.”
Through his role as master, mentor, and entrepreneur, Ansotegui is a bearer of Basque music, dance, and foodways traditions that have contributed to the creative growth and vitality of the Basque community in Idaho and throughout the Great Basin region. according to a news release from Little’s office.
National Heritage Fellows are nominated by members of their own communities and judged by a panel of experts in the folk and traditional arts. The panel’s recommendations are reviewed by the National Council on the Arts, which sends its recommendations to the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, who makes the final decision.
Since 1982 and including the 2019 class, the Endowment has awarded 440 National Heritage Fellowships, recognizing artists working in more than 200 distinct art forms.
Ansotegui joins five previous recipients from Idaho including Nez Perce drum maker, singer, and tradition bearer Horace P. Axtell (2008), saddlemaker Dale Harwood (2008), and Basque accordionist Jimmy Jausoro (1985).
"This nomination marks a significant passing of the torch of cultural legacy,” said Steven Hatcher, Director of Folk and Traditional Arts for the Idaho Commission on the Arts. “Through his music, dance, food, and language, Dan maintains a critical connection to the European Basque homeland. Jimmy Jausoro and Dan’s father, Domingo, learned their traditions in boardinghouses and bars directly from the men and women who carried those traditions on their backs as they forged a new life in a new country. Dan’s success has been to take those time-honored traditions, adapt them, and make them relevant to generations of Basques who have always called this country home.”
More information about Dan Ansotegui can be found on the Idaho Commission for the Arts website.
(photo courtesy: Emily Callihan)