South Arts Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowships

Applications for the 2020 In These Mountains: Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowships are now open until January 15, 2020.

From South Arts

South Arts is pleased to announce the 2020 In These Mountains: Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowships opportunity. These fellowship awards recognize master folk and traditional artists from Appalachian Regional Commission counties in Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee who have demonstrated long-term practice and expertise of their art form or cultural practice. A master artist is an individual who possesses exemplary knowledge and skill and is recognized by their cultural community for their contributions.

The 2020 Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowship will provide $9,000 awards (with restrictions) to individual folk and traditional artists to support their continued training, research and/or learning opportunities. Three fellowships will be awarded to traditional master artists from each state (eligible counties in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee) for a total of nine awards.

Please note: This program is distinct from the South Arts Fellowships for visual artists in the South Arts nine-state region. Guidelines for that separate program are  available here.

What are folk and traditional arts?

The South is home to an abundance of folk and traditional art forms. Folk and traditional arts share the aesthetics, practices and values of families, geographic communities, occupational groups, ethnic heritage groups, etc. Folk and traditional arts are learned orally, or by observation and imitation, often through a master artist instructing an apprentice. They are usually maintained without formal instruction or academic training. Some traditional arts have a deep-rooted history with little change, while others are constantly evolving and adapting to their changing environment.

For the purposes of this application, the folk and traditional arts of Central Appalachia include music, crafts, occupational techniques, foodways, dance, and oral traditions such as storytelling.

Program Goals

The 2020 Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowships follow the purpose of the In These Mountains initiative to “provide intergenerational opportunities to share, teach, learn, preserve, document, and carry forward the folk and traditional arts and culture of Central Appalachia.” For master artists who have dedicated their lives to learning, perfecting, and immersing themselves in the histories, practices, and skills of their community’s folk arts and culture, a fellowship will provide them with resources to engage in new lifelong learning opportunities that would otherwise be inaccessible.

A lifelong learning opportunity can take many forms. Here are a few examples:

  • A traditional ballad singer might travel to Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland to explore the Manuscripts and Archives Research Library to learn about the Celtic origins of Appalachian songs.
  • A quilter might visit The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky to view exhibits and participate in quilting workshops.
  • An herbal forager might attend the Southern Foodways Alliance convening or Appalachian Food Summit.
  • An indigenous basketmaker might travel to California to attend the annual California Indian Basketweavers’ Association annual gathering to learn about western Native American basketry traditions.

Ultimately, each of the nine fellows has the freedom to determine their own lifelong learning opportunity—on their own or, if they wish, with the help of a South Arts staff member, folklorist, or community scholar. Fellows must agree to participate in a visit from South Arts staff that will include documentation (recorded interview and photographs) about their art and lifelong learning experience resulting from their fellowship award. Funding will have restrictions, and fellows are not expected to deliver a final report, produce a commissioned work, or engage in any public program.

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