Eleven Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Projects Selected Across The State

Johnny Bellar, master artist, on resonator guitar. Photo by Sarah Terpstra Hanson.

From Dr. Bradley Hanson, Director of Folklife –

The Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program has selected eleven teams to participate in the 2021 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. Entering its fifth year, the Program is designed to sustain Tennessee’s diverse folklife practices by investing in the passing of traditional art forms from master artists to the next generation.

“This Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program has developed into a key initiative for preserving traditions that are rare or endangered in Tennessee. In many ways, Tennessee is defined by its cultural heritage, but we know that we cannot take these traditions for granted. This program works to ensure that these traditions are a vibrant part of our state’s future,” said Jan McNally, Tennessee Arts Commission Board Chair.

Each of the eleven teams selected to participate is committed to preserving a traditional folklife art form that is deeply rooted in their cultural heritage. The artists will embark on one-on-one or small group training for an eight-month period.

“Traditional arts are essential to the story we tell about ourselves, and that we tell to visitors,” said Anne B. Pope, Executive Director of the Tennessee Arts Commission. “For many of these artists, this program is an investment in the sustainability of their family business, or in a way of life or set of cultural values that have been deeply held for generations. Folklife practices enhance livability and the pride of place in all Tennessee communities, especially in our rural areas.”

The master artists awarded this recognition from the Tennessee Arts Commission are considered to be of exceptional skill as recognized by fellow artists, community members, and folk arts leaders. Five of this year’s master and apprentice teams from the Appalachian region are funded through a special partnership with the South Arts’ initiative In These Mountains: Central Appalachian Folk Art & Culture.

The awarded apprentices are chosen by the master artist. Each apprentice demonstrated outstanding aptitude and potential in the chosen traditional art form. Folklife practices include traditional music, crafts, dance, foodways, and occupational skills. Traditional art forms are learned and passed down informally by imitation, word of mouth, observation, or performance in cultural communities that share family, ethnic, tribal, regional, occupational, or religious identity.

LaVonda Harris Price, master artist, demonstrating hair weaving. Photo by Calvin Sneed.

“Our state is rich with traditional art forms, some that have been here for decades or centuries, and others that are newer. However, many traditions have only a handful of living practitioners,” said Dr. Bradley Hanson, Tennessee Arts Commission Director of Folklife. “Since 2016, the Commission has funded over fifty folklife apprenticeship projects. Taken as a whole, these artists comprise an inspiring panorama of Tennessee culture.”

Masters and apprentices will also share their work together in public and online performances and demonstrations. All projects are documented by the Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program to further archive and preserve the state’s current folklife practices.

A panel of traditional arts and folklife specialists was convened to review a deep and highly competitive applicant pool. The eleven teams are:

Johnny Bellar, master, and Joey Gibson, apprentice. Resonator Guitar. Ashland City, TN, and Manchester, TN.

LaVonda Harris Price, master, and Zaniah J. Danielle Greene, apprentice. Hair Wrapping and Hair Weaving. Kingsport, TN.*

Sierra Hull, master, and Wyatt Ellis, apprentice. Bluegrass Mandolin. Nashville, TN, and Maryville, TN.

Damion Pearson, master, and Karloquious Edwards, apprentice. Blues Harmonica. Memphis, TN.

Katelyn Prieboy, master, and Grace Adele, apprentice. Thumbpicking Guitar. Nashville, TN.

Jerry Machen, master, and Stacy Kimbler, apprentice. Textile Wall Hangings, Carpet Art, and Rug Restoration. Kingsport, TN.*

Héctor Saldivar, master, and Ariel Dickman, apprentice. Ceramic Folk Sculpture. Lenoir City, TN.*

David Sarten, master, and Jairus Sarten and Erin Whaley, apprentices. Old Harp Singing. Sevierville, TN.*

Harry Thompson, master, and Jamison Thompson, apprentice. Choctaw Chant. Henning, TN.

Maxine White, master, and Kaitlin Vaughn, apprentice. Millinery. Jackson, TN.

Keith Williams, master, and Joseph Hensley and Tony Branam, apprentices. Fiddle Making. Chuckey, TN, Speedwell TN, and Jacksboro, TN.*

*These teams are funded through a special partnership with the South Arts’ initiative In These Mountains: Central Appalachian Folk Art & Culture.