Emerging Traditional Artists Program


Connect with your peers, participate in professional development workshops, and receive up to $5,000 supporting your projects.

Meet the Initial Cohort

Meet the 24 members of the 2021 Emerging Traditional Artists cohort. Over this multi-year program, participants will convene and receive funding to support their individual projects.

Meet the Emerging Traditional Artists

Applications Closed

The deadline to apply for the most recent Emerging Traditional Artists Program cycle has passed. The guidelines below are for reference only.

Detailed Program Description

Please note: This program is distinct from the Emerging Leaders of Color program in the South Arts nine-state region. Guidelines for that program are available on the Emerging Leaders of Color page.

South Arts is pleased to announce the In These Mountains: Central Appalachian Folk Arts & Culture – 2021 Emerging Traditional Artists Program (ETAP). This program recognizes and supports a new generation of traditional artists ages 18-35 that have demonstrated a high level of skill in, commitment to, and leadership in their traditional art form in Appalachian Regional Commission counties in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Awards provide financial support to ETAP participants to ensure the continuation of traditional knowledge and artistic skills within their respective cultural communities. 

The 2021 ETAP will award $5,000 grants (with limited restrictions) to participants for learning opportunities including training, networking, and promotion. These opportunities should equip traditional artists to provide greater impact within their communities. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, South Arts urges potential applicants to consider safe, socially distanced opportunities. 

In addition to cash awards, selected individuals will be required to participate in a series of networking and team-building workshops (three online, three in-person) with other ETAP awardees, at no cost to themselves, over a period of three years. Awards will be granted to emerging traditional artists from eligible counties in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee, with an anticipated maximum of twenty-four awards.

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, handcrafts/material culture, and foodways. Some examples of traditional arts practiced in Central Appalachia are Cherokee stamped pottery, African American buck dancing/clogging, Anglo American ballads, seed saving/seed sharing, and many more.

Program Goals

The Emerging Traditional Artists Program advances 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 emerging traditional artists who have demonstrated a commitment to their artform and community and exhibit a high skill level, this award will provide them with resources to engage in learning opportunities that would otherwise be inaccessible.

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

  • Online opportunities for continuing education and collaboration.
  • Establishing/growing network by traveling within the Appalachian region or beyond to meet other leaders/potential mentors in your art form.
  • Taking courses and purchasing software/hardware needed to build an effective online presence.

Ultimately, each of the awardees has the freedom to determine their own learning opportunity—on their own or, if they wish, with assistance from South Arts staff and/or mentors/leaders within their own communities.

Over the course of the three-year award period (Fall 2021-Spring 2023), recipients will participate in at least one in-person or distanced site visit from South Arts staff or other representative that will include documentation (recorded interview and photographs) about their art and the learning experience resulting from their ETAP award. Funding has limited restrictions, and awardees are not required to submit a final report, produce a commissioned work, or engage in any public program.

Through the series of six convenings (one virtual and one in-person per year), the ETAP program is designed to build long-term relationships between emerging traditional artists across the region, beyond state and local boundaries, through:

  • Building a cohort of emerging traditional artists in Central Appalachia who are committed to the advancement of folk and traditional arts.
  • Encouraging and equipping artists to be advocates for their traditional art forms and for the traditional culture of their communities.
  • Deepening participants’ understanding of the importance of public arts support in the United States. 

Awardees will sign an annual letter of commitment expressing their intention to continue participating in ETAP and to attend convenings.

Important Dates and Deadlines

  • Application Deadline: 5:00 p.m. ET on November 3, 2021 for online applications; mailed applications must be postmarked by November 1, 2021
  • Applicants will be notified of their status by November 22, 2021
  • Funds for supported projects must be used by June 30, 2023
  • The first virtual convening will be held December 11, 2021 from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. ET; additional virtual and in-person convening dates are TBD

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants for the Emerging Traditional Artist Program must:

  • Be an individual folk or traditional artist practicing music, handcrafts/material culture, and/or foodways. 
  • Be 18-35 years of age.
  • Have not had an opportunity to participate in high-quality professional development sessions.
  • Be a United States citizen, 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.
  • Have been a resident of a Kentucky, North Carolina, or Tennessee ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) county for a period of at least two years immediately before the application deadline.
  • Expect to maintain residency in an ARC county during the three-year cohort cycle.
  • Submit a complete and accurate application.

Please note: Past recipients of the In These Mountains Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowship are not eligible for the Emerging Traditional Artists Program.

Eligible applicants do not need to rely on their traditional art form as their primary source of income, but they should demonstrate a high level of commitment to their art form and an understanding of its history/role within their community. “Community” may be defined as your family, the geographic area where you live, a religious/worship group, a group of other traditional artists, etc.

Application Process

The components of the application are as follows: 

  • Personal Information
  • Life Story Questions
  • Work Samples
  • Support Materials (Optional)

Application Formats:
ETAP applications may be submitted in one of three formats: 

  1. A written application may be submitted via the online Written Application Form on the South Arts website.
    Please note: The “Save and Resume Later” feature will email a link to return to your in-progress application. Attachments cannot be saved using this feature and should be attached when you are ready to submit your application. Note that South Arts is unable to retrieve your save link.
  2. A physical written application may be submitted via mail.
    Physical applications should be mailed to:
    Attn: Ellie Dassler
    South Arts
    1800 Peachtree St., NW
    Suite 808
    Atlanta, GA 30309
    Contact Ellie Dassler at edassler@southarts.org, or call or text 404.201.7938, if you need assistance printing a written application form.
  3. As an alternative to written applications, applicants may submit oral responses to the six life story questions in video format. Videos may be recorded using any available technology, such as a cell phone or web cam, and should not exceed 15 minutes in length. Advanced video editing skills are not expected or required, and video applications will be judged on their content alone.
    Once recorded, video applications should be hosted online on YouTube, Vimeo, etc. and URLs should be uploaded to the Video Application Form.
    For help with preparing and submitting video applications, please contact Ellie Dassler (Assistant Director, Traditional Arts): edassler@southarts.org or call or text (404) 201-7938.

All applications must be signed and dated by the artist. Please choose only one application format. No application format will be considered more competitive than any other.

Personal Information: As part of the application form, you will be asked, but not required, to include personal information such as 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.

Applicants may be asked to submit a copy of their official state I.D./driver’s license as proof of residency later in the process, in order to confirm eligibility.

Life Story Questions: Applicants must respond to the following six prompts:

  1. Tell us about the traditional art form you practice. Please explain the process, materials used, and/or instruments and tools involved. 
  2. Describe how you learned your art form. When did you start? From whom did you learn? By what methods did you learn?
  3. What role does your art form play in your community? Is it practiced by others in your family, your geographic area, or other groups to which you belong? If so, where, when, and by whom? If not, explain why it is not commonly practiced.
  4. What experiences do you have teaching others, supporting folk arts and traditional practices in your community, and/or advocating for their continuation? What plans do you have for carrying on this tradition in the future by teaching and/or inspiring others? 
  5. Why is it important to preserve this art form in particular?
  6. Tell us about a learning opportunity or opportunities you wish to pursue and why. How will this benefit you as a tradition bearer and support the continuation of your art in the future?

Work Samples: Work samples will be used to evaluate skill in and dedication to the art form.

  • Photographs: Submit up to ten clearly labeled high resolution images of your work. Acceptable file formats include .jpeg and .pdf. Printed images are also acceptable for written applications sent in the mail.
  • Audio Recordings: If applicable, submit up to three examples of your work. 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 your work. 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, blog posts, podcasts, flyers, or other supplemental materials that speak to the applicant’s proficiency in their art form, their dedication to the traditional culture of their community, the history and context of their art form within their community, etc. 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:

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.

Submission and Application Deadline

Completed applications, including work samples, may be submitted either electronically by November 3, 2021 (by close of business, 5:00PM ET) or physically via mail, postmarked by November 1, 2021. 

Review Process

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

  • Skill in and dedication to traditional art form, 25%
  • History of the applicant’s informal training or previous apprenticeship associated with their cultural community, 25%
  • Impact of the applicant’s work on their family/community and artistic tradition, 20%
  • Explanation of how funds will be used to pursue a learning opportunity or opportunities, 15%
  • Connection to and understanding of community needs, 15%

Award Notification: Applicants will receive notification of their award status by November 22, 2021. Up to twenty-four Emerging Traditional Artists will be awarded. The 2021 awards of $5,000 per recipient are to be used before June 30, 2023. 

Emerging Traditional Artist award recipients should note award money of $5,000 constitutes taxable income and must be filed as such.


Application Open: September 22, 2021
Application Deadline: November 3, 2021
Panel Review: November 15, 2021
Awardees Announced: November 22, 2021
First Virtual ETAP Convening: December 11, 2021, 9:00am ET – 12:00pm ET

Please note: Awardees are expected to attend the convening on December 11. Additional funding is available to reimburse any lost wages due to attending the convening. Awardees are also expected to participate in activities to evaluate the success of ETAP and, although they are not required to submit a final report, South Arts staff will check in periodically throughout their award years to discuss artists’ learning opportunities. 


Prior to submitting an application, folk and traditional artists are strongly encouraged to discuss their application with Ellie Dassler (Assistant Director, Traditional Arts) at edassler@southarts.org, or call or text (404) 201-7938.

Please note: We encourage applicants to contact us with questions more than 48 hours before the application deadline; due to the volume of requests, South Arts team members may not be able to respond to inquiries submitted after that time.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss your application with you! 

Application Portal

The deadline to apply for the most recent Emerging Traditional Artists Program cycle has passed.


For questions about the Emerging Traditional Artists Program, contact Ellie Dassler by calling/texting 404.201.7938 or emailing edassler@southarts.org

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