Mike Terry, Deseret News
Artist Jeronimo Lozano makes retablos, boxes filled with figures depicting stories of life and faith. He moved to Salt Lake in 1994.

Jeronimo Lozano began making retablos, brightly colored boxes filled with figures depicting stories of life and faith, to preserve the ancient traditions of his native Peru.

Since moving to Salt Lake City in 1994, he has continued that work, eager to share his native culture with the world. His quest has earned him recognition and numerous awards.

And now comes one more: Lozano has been named a 2008 National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts. The award represents the highest level of achievement in the country for traditional and folk artists.

Lozano is one of 11 artists selected for the award, which will be presented at a celebration Tuesday through Friday in Washington, D.C.

"I am delighted to hear that Jeronimo Lozano is being honored by the National Endowment for the Arts for his study, hard work and dedication to the practice of Peruvian retablo-making," notes Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who adds that Lozano's work and influence reach beyond the field of art. "Traditional artists of his expertise provide excellent role models for future generations, while their art strengthens the fabric of our ethnic communities by providing a tie to heritage, family and the cultural traditions that are easily lost today."

Adds Margaret Hunt, director of the Division of Arts and Museums, "Lozano's artwork maintains the essence and original intention of the retablo format, while simultaneously exploring topics that are fresh and relevant today. As a result, his artwork bridges two worlds."

Lozano learned about relablos as a boy growing up in the village of Huamanga, Ayacucho, Peru, an area rich in Incan heritage and beliefs. After demonstrating an early affinity for art, he was encouraged to pursue his talent, and attended the School of Fine Arts at the University of Peru, and he also traveled throughout the country to study folk arts of the Andes.

He eventually developed his own methods for hand sculpting and painting each figure. His work was exhibited in museums in Lima and other South American countries. Due to the rise of terrorism in his country, however, his family and friends were displaced and some were killed. While on a tour in the United States with a folkloric dance troupe, Lozano applied for and was granted status as an "Artist of Extraordinary Ability."

Lozano is the second Utahn to be named a National Heritage Fellow. Mary Holiday Black, a Navajo basket weaver from Mexican Hat, was honored in 1995. Recipients, who receive a $20,000 award, are nominated via a public submission process. They are chosen by a panel of experts based on criteria including artistic excellence, authenticity and significance within their tradition.

Past recipients nationwide include bluegrass musician Bill Monroe, Irish-American stepdancer Michael Flatley, blues singer B.B. King, gospel singers The Blind Boys of Alabama, western saddlemaker Don King and Tibetan sand painter Losang Samten.

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