Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowships


This fellowship program contributes $9,000 to tradition-bearers from Central Appalachian counties to pursue training, research, or lifelong learning.

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Meet the 2020 Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellows

From old-time fiddling to chair-making and basket-weaving, our class of 2020 Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellows carry forward the traditions and history of Central Appalachia.

Meet the 2020 Fellows

Applications Closed

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

Detailed Program Description

Important Dates & Deadlines

  • Applications open: August 15, 2019
  • Deadline: January 15, 2020

Eligibility Requirements

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.

Application Requirements

The components of the application are as follows:

  • Personal Statement addressing the questions in the guidelines
  • Work samples (files may be uploaded during the application process; art form requires work samples to be submitted in another format, please contact us to discuss options)
  • Support material

I was so thankful for the opportunity, it exceeded my expectations for sure. It’s neat to go and meet and play with your heroes, but it’s really special when it turns into a nice connection and great friendship.

Matt Downer, 2019 Folk & Traditional Arts Fellow

Program Guidelines

The following guidelines for the 2020 Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowships are posted for reference only; applications are now closed.


The following categories provide examples, though not exhaustive, of traditional art forms in Central Appalachia.

  • Oral Traditions
    • Storytelling
    • Beliefs
    • Indigenous language
    • Personal narratives
    • Turkey calling
  • Music
    • String Band
    • Bluegrass
    • Blues
    • Gospel
    • Sacred
    • Ballad-singing
  • Craft
    • Apple dollmaking
    • Basketmaking
    • Beadwork
    • Boatbuilding
    • Coal carving
    • Flint-knapping
    • Luthiery
    • Pottery
    • Quilt-making
    • Weaving
    • Woodworking
  • Occupational
    • Auctioneering
    • Blacksmithing
    • Carpentry
    • Farming
    • Milling
    • Mining
    • Ministry
    • Health services
    • Sawmilling
  • Dance
    • Buck dancing
    • Clogging
    • Ceremonial dancing
    • Flatfooting
    • Square dancing
  • Foodways
    • Barbeque
    • Baking
    • Canning or food preservation
    • Curing or smoking meat
    • Harvesting
    • Seed collection
  • Health and Medicine
    • Ginseng gathering
Application Process

Applications can be completed and submitted either by the applicant (traditional artist) or on their behalf by a nominator (family or community member). The components of the application are as follows:

  1. Application Form
  2. Personal Statement
  3. Work Samples
  4. Support materials
Application Form

Applications will be open from August 15, 2019 through January 15, 2020. The application must be signed and dated by the artist.

Personal Statement

Applicants must provide a personal statement (one page hand-written or typed, maximum) in which they respond to the following statements/questions:

  • Tell us about your traditional art.
  • Please describe how you learned your art form.
  • Why is your art important to you and your family and/or community?
  • Tell us about the life-long learning opportunity you wish to pursue and why.
Work Samples

Work samples will be used to evaluate artistic merit or quality of cultural achievement.

  • Photographs: Submit up to ten clearly labeled high resolution images of the applicant’s work. Acceptable file formats include .jpeg and .pdf. Printed images are also acceptable.
  • Audio Recordings: If applicable, submit up to three examples of the applicant’s 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 the applicant’s 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, flyers or other supplemental materials. These can be submitted as .pdf files or hardcopies. Please, submit no more than five documents.

Documentation/Demographic Information

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.

  • Birth Year
  • Gender identity
  • Race/Ethnicity
  • 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.
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 Deadline

Completed applications, including work samples, may be submitted either electronically (by 11:59 p.m. EST) or physically via mail (postmarked) by January 15, 2020.

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 copies of the application may be requested, and should be mailed to:

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

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:

  • Mastery of 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, 25%
  • Explanation of how funds will be used to pursue a lifelong learning opportunity, 25%

Award Notification

Applicants will receive notification of their award status by early February 2020. Nine Master Artist Fellowships will be awarded, three for each state (Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee). The 2020 awards of $9,000 per recipient to be used between March 2020 and March 2021.

Master Artist Fellowship recipients should note award money constitutes taxable income and must be filed as such.

  • Application Open: August 15, 2019
  • Application Deadline: January 15, 2020 (11:59 p.m. EST)
  • Panel Review: January 23, 2020
  • Fellowships Announced: February 2020


Discuss your application with Teresa Hollingsworth or Amy Howard of the Traditional Arts team.

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