The North Carolina In These Mountains Appalachian Folklife Apprenticeship program supports 12-month apprenticeships in the folk and traditional arts of the many cultural communities within North Carolina’s Appalachian Regional Commission counties. The apprenticeship program application will focus on the traditional folk arts and culture of North Carolina’s Appalachian communities as part of the In These Mountains project sponsored by South Arts.

About folklife and traditional arts

Folklife is the expressive arts, practices, and lifeways that emerge from within a community. Folklife that is passed through generations grows into the traditional arts of that community. Traditional arts are often deeply rooted in a geographic location and its religious, ethnic and occupational groups, or they are carried with immigrant and migrant communities as they establish themselves in new homes. Folklife and Traditional Arts are typically taught through one-on-one interaction in a community setting. Folklife is an essential and enduring part of how communities form their identity, learn from their pasts, and decide their futures. Folklife is a living and dynamic experience expressed through art, music, dance, celebration, work, story, dress, sense of place, and belief. No community is without it, and we are all its carriers.

What is a mentor artist and an apprentice?

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. Applying mentor artists should demonstrate expertise, teaching experience, long engagement with their art form or practice, and deep knowledge of their tradition.

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.  The apprentice should have some past experience with the mentor’s tradition before beginning an apprenticeship, so that the time together will help develop the apprentice on their own path to mastery. Apprentices and mentors may be family members, and apprentices may have studied under the mentor artist previously. The strongest pairings will share a common community or religious, ethnic, or occupational group. The strongest applicants for apprenticeships will also have the intention to continue the transmission of their art form by training others in the future. Teams of two or three apprentices are eligible to study with one mentor artist if such a learning style is preferable within the tradition.

Application dates

  • Due: April 1, 2024 by 11:59 p.m. EST
  • Awardee Announcement: June 2024

Grant amount

  • Mentor: $7,000
  • Apprentice: $3,000 

Alternative distributions of funding may be considered upon request.

Who may apply

All applicants must be 18 years or older.

The Appalachian Folklife Apprenticeship program is designed to encourage the continued transmission, practice, and development of the region’s many folklife traditions, especially those that face endangerment. Only apprenticeship pairs within Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) counties are eligible to apply. In North Carolina, these counties are: 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 Counties.

Ineligible art forms and activities include the work of contemporary studio craft artists and revivals by mentor artists from outside of the activity’s originating cultural community. While mentors must represent a tradition known and practiced within their North Carolina community, apprentices may come from different backgrounds or cultural communities.


  • Mentors must represent a tradition known and practiced within their NC community. Please consult with Folklife Program staff about eligibility of art forms and activities before applying.
  • Master and apprentice must both reside in a North Carolina Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) county, and be able to provide proof of US and NC residency.
  • Pairs must submit a workplan as part of their application that sets clear and achievable goals that can be completed within the 12-month grant period.
  • Pairs should meet on a regularly scheduled basis. Most pairs meet weekly.
  • Pairs must track their meetings and progress through either written evaluations, a photographic record, audio recordings, or video clips. Folklife Program staff are available to discuss appropriate tracking methods.
  • All pairs must share their accomplishments in a public presentation within their community at the end of the apprenticeship. Presentations may take the form of performances, exhibits, demonstrations, web and social media presentations, or other formats appropriate to the tradition. Folklife staff can assist in preparations for such presentations.
  • Mentors and Apprentices must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Receipt of NC Arts Council grant funding requires no overdue tax debt, or a letter from the IRS or a lawyer that steps are being taken to resolve overdue tax debt.
  • Additional grant requirements can be found on our Awardee Contractual Requirements page.

Scope and allowable expenses

The mentor receives a grant award of $7,000. The apprentice receives a grant award of $3,000. Alternative distributions of funding may be considered upon request. Multiple mentor artists or multiple apprentice artists are permitted. In such a situation, the grant award is shared among the recipients (for example, if there are two apprentices, each would receive $1,500). Applicants will describe who is responsible for any supply costs. Typically, the apprentice is expected to cover the cost of supplies.

Project period

Apprenticeships will take place from July 1, 2024 through June 31, 2025.

How we make funding decision

Applications will be reviewed by a panel, and two mentor/apprentice pairings will be selected each year.

Application information

Submit your application through the GO Smart grant portal. The mentor(s) and apprentice(s) must submit all materials as a single application. If you are not able to access GO Smart and need to submit a hardcopy through mail or email, please contact Folklife Director Zoe van Buren first at zoe.vanburen@dncr.nc.gov or (919) 814-6518.

What Makes a Strong Application?

When your application is reviewed by a panel, they will consider both your application materials and the context of your proposed apprenticeship.

  • Is the mentor artist well regarded in their community as a practitioner of this tradition?
  • Is the apprentice committed to living and practicing among the regional, cultural, or artistic community from which this tradition comes?
  • Is there a sense that the apprenticeship will lead to an ongoing relationship between the mentor and the apprentice?
  • Is there interest among others in your regional, cultural, or artistic community in seeing this tradition practiced and taught?
  • Is this grant a unique opportunity for the mentor and the apprentice to do something not otherwise possible?
  • Is there urgency in supporting this mentorship opportunity (for example, age or health of mentor artist, timing of participant schedules, convergence of other opportunities?)
  • How culturally specific is the knowledge being passed on? Will this time together allow for deep transmission of knowledge? For example, a proposal to teach the specific nuances of a music style from your community, accompanied by teachings about that community’s history, will be stronger than a proposal to learn the basics of a commonly practiced instrument, even if that instrument is part of your music tradition. If the tradition is endangered and not widely practiced, however, beginner instruction can make for a strong application.

Sending Support Materials

Please submit work samples for each individual included in this application. Select work samples that clearly demonstrate the nature of your practice. Applicants are welcome to submit supporting video of themselves at work or in conversation together. For all individual work samples, indicate which artist each sample refers to.

  • For video work samples and website links: In GO Smart, use the Web Link Collection Form to provide links to videos online and links to articles, websites, or other online materials. For video links, provide descriptions and indicate time markers for which portions of longer videos the panel should view; up to 10 minutes of total viewing time per artist. Videos must be submitted as URL web links. Maximum PDF/doc size for links to documents is 10MB.
  • For image work samples: Use the upload fields in your GO Smart application to provide image work samples, with descriptions. For visual art forms, please provide at least 5 images per artist that clearly show examples of your finished work. Maximum image size is 1000x1000 px. Formats accepted: .txt .pdf .doc .docx .xls .xlsx .jpeg .png
  • For audio work samples: Please upload audio files to the Media Library in GO Smart and then attach them to your application within the Media Library. If your audio files are too large to upload, provide a filesharing link to access the files in the Web Link Collection Form on the previous page.

If you need assistance uploading work samples, or need to provide work samples through email or mail, please contact Folklife Director Zoe van Buren for assistance or mailing instructions at zoe.vanburen@dncr.nc.gov or (919) 814-6518.

Staff contact

Zoe van Buren
Folklife Director
(919) 814-6518

Grant Application Assistance

North Carolina Arts Council staff are here to assist with grant applications. Visit our application assistance page for resources and grants staff contact information. 


For accessibility questions or accommodation requests, please contact the North Carolina Arts Council's Music and Dance Director, Accessibility Coordinator Jamie Katz Court at jamie.katzcourt@dncr.nc.gov or (919) 814-6502.