Vera Nakonechny, 2008 Pew Fellow, Named NEA National Heritage Fellow

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Vera Nakonechny, 2008 Pew Fellow. Still from Nakonechny's Pew Fellow short film, directed by Glenn Holsten.

Vera Nakonechny, a 2008 Pew Fellow who preserves and teaches Ukrainian textile techniques, has been named a 2014 NEA National Heritage Fellow. National Heritage Fellowships are the nation's highest honor for individuals who have made "major contributions to the excellence, vitality, and public appreciation of the folk and traditional arts."

This year's National Heritage Fellows follow a theme of exposure to the arts at a young age, such as Nakonechny, "whose fascination with her mother's embroidery inspired her to seek out training when she was older," says NEA Chairman Jane Chu. The NEA's press release includes other folk artists like Henry Arquette, a Mohawk basketmaker, Yvonne Walker Keshick, an Odawa quill worker, and Carolyn Mazloomi, a quilting community advocate. Read more >

Nakonechny grew up in Brazil and Philadelphia, where she learned intricate Ukrainian embroidery, beadwork, weaving, and other traditional forms from her mother, as well as from the Ukrainian Women's League of America and artists like Eudokia Sorochaniuk, a 1999 National Heritage Fellow. She returned to Ukraine in 1991 to study with master artists and teach textile skills that were at risk of being lost after Soviet Union control of the region. Nakonechny is an associate to the National Center of Folk Culture in Kyiv, and the recipient of a 2007 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship, a 2008 Pew Fellowship, and a 2011 Leeway Foundation Transformational Award. "We have become one big family, on two sides of the world, puzzling over this art form that was supposed to be lost," she is quoted on her NEA Fellowship page. Read more >

Update, July 30: Nakonechny's work is characterized by its careful diligence, from the intricate details of her embroidery to the depth of her research across the villages of Ukraine. Lini S. Kadaba, in a feature for the Philadelphia Inquirer, describes "yards of yarn, goose feathers by the fistful, even a few cowrie shells—with these and more, Vera Nakonechny painstakingly re-creates a past that is quickly slipping away." Read more >