This week Governor Roy Cooper announced that Durham muralist Cornelio Campos will be amongst six artists to be awarded the North Carolina Heritage Award in May of 2023.

Born in Cherán, in the region of Michoacán, Mexico, Campos is a self-taught artist based in Durham, North Carolina. Campos’s work draws on both the centuries-old traditions of Michoacán and his life in the United States to develop his own visual language as a painter and public muralist.

Campos has been featured on PBS NC, and in April of this year, the Durham County Main Library placed Campos’ mural “Wings of a Migrant Butterfly” on display in the space that houses the North Carolina Collection.

The mural, like much of Campos’ work, depicts themes of immigration.

“When they try to stop people from immigrating from one place to another, I think they are trying to stop something that comes naturally to human beings,” says Campos on the self-named website dedicated to his work. “Immigration is as natural for us as it is for the Monarch butterfly. I wish it could be that peaceful.”

Campos’ expressive, vibrant mural work has been showcased throughout Durham, most notably on the side of the Downtown Durham Convention Center, from a 2019 commission from the City of Durham.

“North Carolina’s traditional arts continue to reflect a unique sense of place and lived experiences of our diverse people,” Governor Cooper said in a press release. “I congratulate the 2023 recipients of the Heritage Award for their individual artistic accomplishments and for their commitments to the cultural life of our communities small and large, rural and urban.”

Each year the North Carolina Heritage Award has been given to six traditional artists for their contributions to the state’s cultural vitality, honoring over 130 artists since 1989. According to the press release, the five other Heritage Award recipients include “white oak basket maker Neal Thomas, Southern gospel and bluegrass musician Rhonda Gouge, champion old-time fiddler Richard Bowman, and Cherokee white-oak basket maker Louise Goings and her husband, the carver Butch Goings.” Recipients are nominated by their communities.

The 2023 Heritage Awards will be the first since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

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