Twelve Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Projects Selected Across The State

From Dr. Bradley Hanson, Director of Folklife –

Carlos DeFord Bailey, harmonica player and master artist.

The Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program has awarded funding to twelve projects as part of the 2024 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. Entering its eighth 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.

“The Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program is a key initiative for preserving distinctive Tennessee traditions. Although our state has a rich cultural heritage, many traditional art forms today are fragile. This program helps ensure these traditions last into the future,” said Mary Kilbride, Tennessee Arts Commission Board Chair.

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

“Traditional arts are at the heart of the Tennessee story,” said Anne B. Pope, Executive Director of the Tennessee Arts Commission. “For many traditional artists, this program provides a significant investment in the sustainability of their family business or a way of life. 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 of exceptional skill as recognized by fellow artists, community members, and folk arts leaders. Six of this year’s master and apprentice teams from the Appalachian region are funded in part 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.

“Tennessee is abundant with folklife traditions, some that have been here for decades or centuries, and others that are newer. However, many traditions have only a handful of active practitioners,” said Dr. Bradley Hanson, Tennessee Arts Commission Director of Folklife. “Since 2016, the Commission has funded nearly ninety folklife apprenticeship projects. Taken as a whole, these artists represent the extraordinary breadth of Tennessee culture.”

Masters and apprentices will also share their work together in public 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 reviewed a deep and highly competitive applicant pool and recommended the following awardees:

2024 Master Artists and Apprentices 

Carlos DeFord Bailey, master artist and Torris Wilson Jr., apprentice. Country Blues Harmonica. Nashville, TN.

Mike Bryant, master artist and Sharon Richards, apprentice. Old Time Fiddling. Kingston and Shady Valley, TN.*

Leo Collins, master artist and Tony Branam, apprentice. Square Dance Calling. Heiskell and Jacksboro, TN.*

Rafael Casco, master artist and Cielo Hernandez, apprentice. Honduran-style Painting and Wood Carving. Sevierville, TN.*

Rafael Figueroa, master artist and Sandra Figueroa, apprentice. Cartonería. Memphis, TN.

Jason D. Williams, master artist and Canyon Williams, apprentice. Boogie-Woogie Piano. Memphis, TN.

Eva Rodriguez Luna, master artist and Mauricio Luna and Alejandra Berry, apprentices. Piñata Making. Knoxville and Jefferson City, TN.*

Trenton Caruthers, master artist and Jordan Judkins, apprentice. Cumberland Plateau Banjo. Cookeville and Smithville, TN.*

Lauren Price Napier, master artist and Reagan Brown, apprentice. Monroe-Style Mandolin. Hyden, KY and Springfield, TN.

Maxine White, master artist and Morgan Washington, apprentice. Millinery. Jackson, TN.

Shelia Collins, master artist and Paula Schuerer, apprentice. Woodworking and Furniture Making. Lewisburg and Franklin, TN.

Mike Wood, master artist and Avery Wood, apprentice. Hand Painted Sign Making. Jamestown, TN.*

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