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Contact: Meredith Beatrice

Florida Aerialist Receives Nation’s Highest Award in Folk and Traditional Arts

Tallahassee –

Secretary of State Ken Detzner and the Florida Department of State proudly join the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in honoring Dolly Jacobs of Sarasota, who will be awarded a 2015 NEA National Heritage Fellowship October 1-2 in Washington, DC. The highest award of its kind, the NEA National Heritage Fellowships are awarded each year to artists whose excellence and dedication enriches the dynamic and varied culture of the United States. 

I am delighted that 2012 Florida Folk Heritage Award winner Dolly Jacobs has been recognized with the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts,” said Secretary Detzner. “Her skills as a renowned aerialist and her dedication to sharing the tradition of circus arts as an educator bring acclaim to the circus arts and to our state.”


Award-winning Florida aerialist Dolly Jacobs, “Queen of the Air” in performance. (Photo provided by The Circus Arts Conservatory) 

The circus arts and the occupational folk culture of circus performers are a unique part of the living cultural heritage of Florida, which is home to some of the nation’s best known circus arts institutions. A third-generation circus performer, Ms. Jacobs learned circus arts at a young age. Her mother also performed with the circus, and her father, Lou Jacobs, is one of the most heralded clowns of all time. 

Known as the “Queen of the Air,” Jacobs joined Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the age of 13, and in 1988 Prince Albert of Monaco awarded her the Silver Clown Award at the Circus Festival of Monte Carlo. In 1997, she and her husband and fellow circus artist Pedro Reis founded Sarasota’s Circus Arts Conservatory. They also oversee the youth circus program Sailor Circus, providing educational outreach into science, language arts, and theatre classes. The Sailor Circus humor therapy program enriches the lives of those in assisted living facilities, nursing homes and hospitals. In addition to her 2012 Florida Folk Heritage Award, Jacobs was designated a Circus Celebrity by the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and is a member of the Circus Ring Hall of Fame and the Gallery of Acrobatic Legends.


About the NEA National Heritage Fellowships

Each year the National Endowment for the Arts celebrates master folk and traditional artists that embody the strength and diversity of culture.The 2015 National Heritage Fellows will be honored in Washington, DC, at an awards ceremony at the Library of Congress on Thursday, October 1, 2015 and a free concert on Friday, October 2, 2015 at 8:00 p.m. at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium. For more information on the NEA's National Heritage Fellowships, including bios, interviews, and audio selections for the Heritage Fellows;portraits by Tom Pich of more than 170 Fellows in their homes, studios, and at sites that most vividly reflect the essence of their artwork; and publications such as a 30th anniversary publication, and a Masters of Traditional Arts Education Guide, visit

About the Florida Folklife Program

The Florida Folklife Program, a component of the Florida Department of State's Division of Historical Resources, documents and presents Florida’s folklife, folklore and folk arts. The program coordinates a wide range of activities and projects designed to increase the awareness of Floridians and visitors alike about Florida’s traditional culture. Established in 1979 by the legislature to document and present Florida folklife, this program is one of the oldest state folk arts programs in the nation. The Florida Folklife Program is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts’ Folk and Traditional Arts Program. For more information about Florida folklife, visit

About the Division of Cultural Affairs

The Florida Department of State’s Division of Cultural Affairs is Florida’s legislatively designated state arts agency. The Division promotes the arts and culture as essential to quality of life for all Floridians. To achieve its mission, the Division funds and supports cultural programs that provide artistic excellence, diversity, education, access and economic vitality for Florida’s communities. For more information, visit