Folk & Traditional Arts Cross-Border Mentor-Apprentice Program


Supporting Mentor-Apprentice relationships that cross state borders in Central Appalachia.

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Application Closed

The deadline to apply for this program has passed. The guidelines below are for reference only.


Cross-Border Mentor Apprentice Showcases

Meet South Arts' Folk and Traditional Arts Cross-Border Mentor Apprentice teams in our showcase events. The mentors and apprentices will share their work and discuss the importance of the traditions they are passing across generations.

Cross-Borders Showcase - Ballads Team

Sheila Kay Adams (Madison County, NC), Mentor Artist. Sheila Kay Adams, a former North Carolina Heritage Award and National Heritage Award recipient, has been singing the ballads she learned from her family for 60 years. She is also an accomplished storyteller and banjo player.

Ian Kirkpatrick (Claiborne County, TN), Apprentice. Ian Kirkpatrick is an accomplished clogger turned ballad singer. He grew up learning ballads as “secular songs” from his gospel-singing family and is excited to deepen his repertoire and strengthen his voice as he studies with Ms. Adams.

Ballad singing in Appalachia is a tradition going back to the earliest Scottish and English settlers to the area. Settlers brought the songs they knew from home, and according to Ian Kirkpatrick, “the artform continued to grow, and distinct American songs were added to the pre-colonial repertoire.” Ballads are traditionally unaccompanied and tell a story. Kirkpatrick explains that “historically, ballad singing was an important form of social entertainment that could be engaged [in] during any task or activity. It was also vital for remembering historical events in a majority-illiterate society, as the tunes and rhyme schemes aided memorization….At one time, this artform was commonly practiced by my family and my community” but it has largely died out in many areas. “I have friends and relatives who continue to sing those ballads that were able to survive in the bluegrass and country genres, though they often do not know the history of those particular songs.”

Cross-Borders Showcase - Appalachian Music/Fiddle Team

Bobby Taylor (Kanawha County, WV), Mentor Artist. Bobby Taylor, a 4th generation fiddler, was first introduced to the instrument by his father 55 years ago. He has actively participated in and run fiddling competitions since the 1970s.

L. Scott Miller (Boyd County, KY), Apprentice. Scott Miller has played old-time Appalachian music for 41 years as a multi-instrumentalist and turned seriously to the fiddle 16 years ago. He is an instructor for the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music at Morehead State University.

Although fiddling tunes and style may seem ubiquitous across Appalachia to an outsider, there are in fact tunes and styles that are distinct to specific communities and fiddlers. Traditionally, these tunes and styles are passed person to person, learned through imitation. As Scott Miller explains, “This musical art form has a rich heritage in all areas of Appalachia. As regional spoken dialects differ from region to region so does the music, in this case the style of the fiddling. These regional styles, both in tunes and stylistic performance, play an important role in the tapestry of Appalachian music.” Appalachian music is an integral part of traditional Appalachian culture. Miller continues, “Both the music and the dances were part of our social framework.” Fiddlers continue to gather and learn from each other at informal jam sessions, fiddling festivals, and through one-on-one and group instruction.

Program Description

South Arts is pleased to announce the In These Mountains: Central Appalachian Folk Arts & Culture – 2020 Folk & Traditional Arts Cross-Border Mentor-Apprentice Program. This program is specifically designed to support mentor artist and apprentice relationships that cross state borders in order to develop shared cultural heritage in Central Appalachia. Individual folk and traditional arts mentor artists from Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) counties in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia will partner with apprentices from ARC counties in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, or West Virginia. The applying mentor and apprentice must reside in different states. These collaborations will preserve and pass on the traditions of their local communities and shared culture of Central Appalachia through informal education.

What is a mentor-apprentice team? 

The mentor artist should be an individual who possesses exemplary knowledge and skill, is recognized by their cultural community for their contributions, and has demonstrated long-term practice and expertise of their art form or cultural practice. The mentor artist should also have a demonstrated ability to teach. The apprentice should already be a practitioner of the same skill or art form as the mentor and have the long-term goal of continuing in the tradition and teaching others in the future. The mentor-apprentice team will apply as a team to work together for a 9-month period beginning mid-September 2020

The 2020 Folk & Traditional Arts Cross-Border Mentor-Apprentice Program will provide a $3,500 honorarium to the mentor artist for their time and expertise and to cover teaching expenses such as supplies and equipment. The apprentice will receive a $1,500 stipend for supplies, minor equipment, and fund travel to the mentor artist’s home, workshop or other designated sites. Three awards will be given to mentor artists from eligible counties in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia who apply with an apprentice from an eligible ARC county in a different state. The applying mentor and apprentice must reside in different states, as opportunities already exist for mentors and apprentices who live in the same state to work with one another. * 

*Please note: This program is an expansion of the In These Mountains Apprenticeships provided by KentuckyNorth Carolina, and Tennessee’s state arts agencies. Mentor-apprentice opportunities are also available through the Virginia and West Virginia state humanities agencies. Visit these state agency websites for more information about your local program.

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 mentor 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. 


Applications are now open through July 15, 2020.


The following categories provide examples, though not exhaustive, of traditional art forms in Central Appalachia. Preference will be given to music, dance, foodways, or tactile arts.

  • Oral Traditions
    • Storytelling, beliefs, indigenous languages, personal narratives, turkey calling
  • Music
    • String Band, bluegrass, blues, gospel, sacred, ballad-singing
  • Craft
    • Apple doll-making, basketmaking, beadwork, boatbuilding, coal carving, flint-knapping, luthiery, pottery, quilt-making, weaving, woodworking
  • Dance
    • Buck dancing, clogging, ceremonial dancing, flatfooting, square dancing
  • Occupational
    • Auctioneering, blacksmithing, carpentry, farming, milling, mining, ministry, health services, sawmilling
  • Foodways
    • Barbeque, caking, canning or food preservation, curing or smoking meat, harvesting, seed collection
  • Health & Medicine
    • Ginseng gathering, traditional remedies
  • New Immigrant Traditions
    • Traditions of new cultural groups in the area

Ineligible art forms and activities include the work of contemporary studio craft artists, professional teachers, historical recreations and copies of antiques, and revivals by mentor artists from outside of the activity’s originating cultural community.


Mentor artist and apprentice teams applying for the Cross-Border Mentor-Apprentice Program must:

  • Be individual folk or traditional artists representing traditions known and practiced within their community
  • Reside in different states, as listed below.
  • Have been residents in a Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia or West Virginia ARC County for a period of at least two years immediately before the application deadline.
  • Expect to maintain residency in their current state of residence for the duration of the program.
  • If apprentice is under 18 years of age, a parent or guardian must sign appropriate paperwork and attend training sessions between their child and mentor artist. 
  • Be United States citizens, lawfully admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence, or have permission from the Department of Homeland Security to work permanently in the U.S.
  • Submit a complete and accurate application.
Program Goals & Expectations

Mentor artist and apprentice teams that are selected for the Cross-Border Mentor-Apprentice Program will be expected to:

  • Complete a grant agreement.
  • Work together, in-person, regularly. Each team will ideally meet at least once a week, but teams may arrange other timetables based on their circumstances. Please contact South Arts staff with questions about determining an appropriate work schedule.
  • Develop timelines, goals and benchmarks for the apprentices’ work. This work plan should include details about specific techniques that will be learned and how they will be taught.
  • Be documented twice during apprenticeship training. Once within the first three months of the apprenticeship; then, again, near the conclusion of the apprenticeship. A student documenter or community scholar will conduct interviews (about one hour per interview) to learn about the mentor artist’s art, life and teaching process and the apprentice’s interest in the art form, skill development and experience.
  • Complete a final report of the apprenticeship experience to be submitted by July 31, 2021. The final report form will be provided by South Arts.
Application Process

Applications must be completed and submitted by both the mentor artist and the apprentice. The components of the application are as follows:

  • Mentor Artist Application Form
  • Apprentice Application Form
  • Work Plan
  • Budget
  • Work Samples – Mentor Artist
  • Work Samples – Apprentice
  • Support Materials

Personal Information
As part of the application form, you will be required to include personal information such as contact information, birth year, birthplace, gender identity, and race/ethnicity. Demographic information is for South Arts’ use only; this information will not be shared with the panelists. South Arts may share your contact information (only) with art professionals, such as curators and journalists who wish to be in direct contact with you, as requested.

Mentor Artist Application
The applying mentor artist will provide their information and respond to the following prompts:

  • Describe the art form you will teach.
  • Describe how you learned your art form. When did you start? From whom did you learn? By what methods did you learn?
  • Why is your art important to you and your family and/or community?
  • Is this art form commonly practiced by you and others in your community? If so, where, when, and by whom? If not, explain why there are not many practitioners and why it is not commonly practiced.
  • How does this art form represent a shared culture in Central Appalachia?
  • Describe experiences you’ve had teaching others.
  • How did you come to know your proposed apprentice? What is your relationship like? How would you describe his or her work ethic/ability and desire to learn?

Apprentice Application
The applying apprentice will provide their personal information and respond to the following prompts:

  • Describe the art form you will learn more about.
  • Why is the applying mentor artist qualified to teach you? Why would you like to learn from them in particular?
  • Describe your skill level. Include how long you have practiced your art form and what teachers and/or influences you have had thus far.
  • Why is your art important to you and your family and/or community?
  • Is this art form commonly practiced by you and others in your community? If so, where, when, and by whom? If not, explain why there are not many practitioners and why it is not commonly practiced.
  • Why is it important to preserve this art form in particular?
  • What plans do you have for carrying on this tradition in the future? How do you plan to teach others?
  • How does this art form represent a shared culture in Central Appalachia?

Work Plan
The applying mentor artist and apprentice will complete this section together. The work plan must be signed and dated by both artists.

  • What specific skills/techniques do you plan on learning/teaching?
  • What finished product do you hope to have at the end of the apprenticeship period?
  • What will a typical work session together look like?
  • How often will you meet? Where? For how long?
  • What will be expected of the apprentice in between sessions?
  • What supplies will you need and who will furnish them?
  • How will you evaluate/track progress?
  • Describe 2-3 possible public displays or program of your art form at the completion of the apprenticeship. Include proposals for where/when they could take place.

The budget will be used to evaluate the level of preparation and feasibility of the proposed apprenticeship. The applying mentor artist and apprentice will complete this section together. You will be asked to estimate costs of supplies, travel, etc. over the course of the apprenticeship period.

Work Samples
Work samples will be used to evaluate artistic merit or quality of cultural achievement. Both the mentor artist and apprentice must submit work samples.

  • Photographs: Submit up to ten clearly labeled high resolution images of each applicant’s work (up to 20 total). Acceptable file formats include .jpeg and .pdf. Printed images are also acceptable.
  • Audio Recordings: If applicable, submit up to three examples of each applicant’s work (up to 6 total). While .mp3 is recommended, all standard file formats are acceptable. Hard copies may be sent via CD or thumb-drive.
  • Video Recordings: If applicable, submit up to three examples of each applicant’s work (up to 6 total). Publicly accessible URL links to YouTube, Vimeo, or other internet sources are acceptable, or hard copies can be sent via CD, DVD, or thumb-drive.
  • Other: If your work samples must be submitted in another format, please contact us to discuss options.

Support Materials (Optional)
Support materials are optional, but strongly encouraged. These materials may be letters of support, newspaper articles, flyers or other supplemental materials. These can be submitted as .pdf files or hardcopies. Please, submit no more than five documents.

Eligible Counties

You must be a current legal resident of one of the following counties for a period of two years prior to the application due date. Applicants will be asked to submit proof of residency later in the process, in order to confirm eligibility.

  • Kentucky: Adair, Bath, Bell, Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Casey, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Edmonson, Elliott, Estill, Fleming, Floyd, Garrard, Green, Greenup, Harlan, Hart, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Lewis, Lincoln, McCreary, Madison, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Metcalfe, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Nicholas, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Powell, Pulaski, Robertson, Rockcastle, Rowan, Russell, Wayne, Whitley, and Wolfe.
  • Tennessee: Anderson, Bledsoe, Blount, Bradley, Campbell, Cannon, Carter, Claiborne, Clay, Cocke, Coffee, Cumberland, De Kalb, Fentress, Franklin, Grainger, Greene, Grundy, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hancock, Hawkins, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Lawrence, Lewis, Loudon, McMinn, Macon, Marion, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Polk, Putnam, Rhea, Roane, Scott, Sequatchie, Sevier, Smith, Sullivan, Unicoi, Union, Van Buren, Warren, Washington, and White.
  • North Carolina: Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Davie, Forsyth, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, McDowell, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Stokes, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes, Yadkin, and Yancey.
  • Virginia: Alleghany, Bath, Bland, Botetourt, Buchanan, Carroll, Craig, Dickenson, Floyd, Giles, Grayson, Henry, Highland, Lee, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, Rockbridge, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe.
    • The following independent cities in Virginia are also within the Appalachian Region and are merged with an adjacent or surrounding county for the purposes of data analysis and grant management: Bristol (Washington County), Buena Vista (Rockbridge County), Covington (Alleghany County), Galax (Carroll County), Lexington (Rockbridge County), Martinsville (Henry County), Norton (Wise County), and Radford (Montgomery County).
  • West VirginiaAll counties: Barbour, Berkeley, Boone, Braxton, Brooke, Cabell, Calhoun, Clay, Doddridge, Fayette, Gilmer, Grant, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Mason, McDowell, Mercer, Mineral, Mingo, Monongalia, Monroe, Morgan, Nicholas, Ohio, Pendleton, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Randolph, Ritchie, Roane, Summers, Taylor, Tucker, Tyler, Upshur, Wayne, Webster, Wetzel, Wirt, Wood, and Wyoming.
Submission and Application Deadline

Completed applications, including work samples, may be submitted either electronically (by 11:59 p.m. EST) or physically via mail (postmarked) by the extended deadline of July 15, 2020. The application must be signed and dated by the artists.

Digital applications can be submitted online through our form.

Please note: When using the online application form, please utilize the ‘save and resume’ option at the bottom of each page to ensure your work has been saved.

Physical applications should be mailed to:

Attn: Amy Howard
South Arts
1800 Peachtree St., NW, Ste. 808
Atlanta, GA 30309

Review Process

Panelist Review: An independent panel consisting of folklorists and traditional and folk art specialists will conduct the review, evaluating each application by the criteria as follows:

  • Value of the traditional art form, 25%
  • Qualifications of the mentor artist, including mastery of the art form and teaching ability, 25%
  • Qualifications of the apprentice, including above-beginner skills, long-term plans to continue practicing the art form and teaching others, 25%
  • Appropriateness of the work plan and budget, 25%
Award Notification

Applicants will receive notification of their award status by late August 2020. Three Mentor-Apprentice teams will be funded. The 2020 awards of $3,500 per mentor and $1,500 per apprentice are to be used between July 2020 and July 2021.  

Mentor-Apprentice recipients should note award money constitutes taxable income and must be filed as such. 

  • Application Open: January 15, 2020
  • Application Deadline: July 15, 2020  
  • Panel Review: Early August 2020 
  • Awards Announced: Late August 2020
  • Program begins: Mid-September 2020
  • Final Report: July 31, 2021


Contact Teresa Hollingsworth or Amy Howard of the Traditional Arts team to discuss your application.

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