Raleigh, N.C. (Oct. 4, 2019) — The North Carolina Arts Council announced today that traditional artist pairs from Western North Carolina have received the inaugural N.C. Appalachian Folklife Apprenticeships.
Burnsville ballad singer and storyteller Bobby McMillon will mentor old-time musician William Ritter of Spruce Pine in the ballads, stories, and songs of his family tradition in Yancey and Mitchell counties and Cocke County, Tennessee. McMillon learned from relatives, neighbors, and the family of Tom Dula, and has methodically documented the folklore of his community. If he did not perform and teach, McMillon says, “most of the repertories of the people I learned from would be lost because they didn’t have family members of their own to hand them down to.”
Cullowhee metalsmith William Rogers will mentor Nathan Bush and J.R. Wolfe of Robbinsville and Cherokee in the techniques of hammered copperwork and blacksmithing which predate European contact. Rogers, Bush, and Wolfe are working to revive Cherokee metalsmithing knowledge and practice, and to make it “come alive again” in Cherokee’s schools and craft centers like the Oconaluftee Indian Village.
The new program supports 12-month apprenticeships in the folk and traditional arts of the many cultural communities within the state’s Appalachian Regional Commission counties. Funding support was provided by South Arts’ In These Mountains: Central Appalachian Folk Arts & Culture Initiative.
A mentor artist is a tradition bearer committed to the perpetuation of a traditional art form or practice of his or her cultural heritage. Mentor artists are recognized by fellow artists and their own community members as skilled and dedicated practitioners. An apprentice is a dedicated student who has been chosen by a mentor artist for a sustained period of study in the mentor’s art form or practice. Throughout the apprenticeship, the mentors and apprentices document and publicly present their work together within their communities.
For more information about the Folklife & Traditional Arts program of the N.C. Arts Council visit: https://www.ncarts.org/discover/folk-traditional-arts