The Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowships 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. Awards provide financial support for Fellows to continue learning about their artform.
The 2021 Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowships will provide awards (with limited restrictions) to individual folk and traditional artists to support their continued training, research and/or learning opportunities. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, South Arts urges potential applicants to consider training, research and/or learning opportunities that ensure safe, socially distanced opportunities. These funds may be used for travel, research, equipment, and/or supplies.
Fellowships will be awarded to traditional artists from eligible counties in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee with a maximum of fifteen awards.
Please note: This program is distinct from the Southern Prize and State Fellowships and for visual artists in the South Arts nine-state region.
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, but are not limited to, music, crafts, occupational techniques, foodways, dance, and oral traditions (such as storytelling) that are not self-taught.
The 2021 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 potter might invest in developing a website for online commerce for their work.
- An herbal forager might attend the virtual (online) 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.
- An instrument maker might acquire new equipment to expand their repertoire as a luthier.
Ultimately, each of the fellows has the freedom to determine their own lifelong learning opportunity—on their own or, if they wish, with assistance as requested of a South Arts staff member, folklorist, or community scholar. Fellows must agree to participate in an in-person or distanced site 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 has limited restrictions, and Fellows are not required to submit a final report, produce a commissioned work, or engage in any public program.
Important Dates & Deadlines
- Applications open: November 9, 2020
- Deadline: 11:59 p.m. ET, February 15, 2021 (please note, this has been extended)
To be considered for this grant, the applicant must:
- Be an individual folk or traditional artist.
- Be at least 18 years of age.
- 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 in a Kentucky, North Carolina, or Tennessee Appalachian Regional Commission county (see the "Eligible Counties" tab in the Program Guidelines section below) for a period of at least two years immediately before the application deadline.
- Cannot be a full-time high school or undergraduate student.
- Expect to maintain residency in their current state of residence during the Fellowship award year.
- Submit a complete and accurate application.