The Southern New England Folk and
Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program
seeks master traditional artists in Connecticut,
Rhode Island, or Massachusetts who want to teach their art
form to an apprentice from their community in one of the other
states. Now in its tenth year, the program is designed to
foster the sharing of traditional (folk) artistic skills and
cultural knowledge through the apprenticeship learning model
of regular, intensive, one-on-one teaching by a master artist
to a student/apprentice. The Program creates this opportunity
specifically for individuals with a common heritage.
Folk or traditional arts are those artistic
practices that have an occupational, geographic, ethnic, community,
or family base, and are shared and understood by all as part
of that community's aesthetic heritage. The learning process
is informal, takes place over a long period of time, and is
passed down from generation to generation.
Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts
share a number of ethnic and occupational communities with
a common history of immigration and residence in the region.
The program encourages the transmission of traditional arts
knowledge, links artists to members of their ethnic or occupational
group in other locations, adds to the regional documentation
of folk artists and their communities, and enhances public
activities in ethnic and occupational communities shared by
the three states.
Program apprenticeships take place each
year from November to the following June. During this time
master and student meet regularly, usually twice or more each
month. At the end of the training period, each apprenticeship
pair presents the results of its learning process to a public
audience, either in a formal program or at a community event.
For Program Guidelines and selection criteria, please see
the application form.
To promote teaching and learning of traditional arts for education
and cultural conservation, by:
- Pairing master artists with qualified students,
to pass on important artistic skills through the classic
apprenticeship model of regular, informal but intensive
- Exchanging master artists across state
boundaries, to foster cross-fertilization as they visit
members of their ethnic group in other states to present
their work and stimulate new learning within the group.
To strengthen existing community festivals,
activities, and events by encouraging the master/apprentice
pairs to perform or demonstrate the results of their cooperative
learning at these events.
To develop a wider regional network and roster
of excellent master traditional artists.
To benefit artists by providing them with materials
created during project documentation. Copies of photographs,
video or audio tapes, and written descriptions can be used
by the artists to create educational or promotional products.
The program is a collaboration among the three statewide folk
arts programs in Southern New England, located at the Institute for Community Research in Hartford, the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts in Providence, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council in Boston.
Contact information for each Program partner appears on page
2 of the Program Guidelines.
Primary funding for the Program comes from the
National Endowment for the Arts, along with the Program partners.
Please see descriptions of artists who have participated in Years 1-8, and the complete list of apprenticeships from Years 1-9.
The Program welcomes inquiries from traditional
artists in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts who
may wish to apply. Interested master or apprentice candidates
should contact the Folk Arts Program in their state, or Program
Coordinator Lynne Williamson at Lynne.Williamson@icrweb.org
The program reaches both specific communities and the general public. In nine completed years, sixty-six apprenticeships have taken place, with a total of two hundred seventeen artists participating. The required presentations by each apprenticeship team help to inform audiences about traditional arts and the apprenticeship model of transmission of cultural knowledge, and the communities gain a wider recognition for their artists, especially when they present their work in another state. Some events have been in small local settings while others had attendance figures of over 300 (Working Waterfront Festival in New Bedford MA, Central Connecticut State University International Festival in New Britain CT, Laotian and Cambodian New Year celebrations, Jacob’s Pillow dance presentation in Becket, MA, Old Songs and Champlain Valley Festivals in NY and VT, Mohegan Intertribal Social in Uncasville CT). Since 2005 the Lowell Folk Festival has featured several masters from the program, highlighting their role through interpretive panels and stage introductions. 2007 activities reached new audiences through festivals in Providence and Farmington CT, rural gatherings in CT and RI, and television viewers in Norwich CT. Participating artists often generate wider public attention in a variety of ways: this year three apprenticeship groups (Franco and rural Yankee) have developed new musical repertoire and active performance partnerships. Program Coordinator Lynne Williamson has given presentations at AFS and the Urban Artists Initiative conference in 2001, the Building Healthy Communities conference and AFS in 2002, several festivals and events in 2003, and ICR’s national conference in June 2004, often accompanied by program participants who are eloquent in their description of the learning process.
View pictures from the 2005-6 Southern New England Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program