Folklife Apprenticeships

In These Mountains Appalachian Folklife Apprenticeship
2021-22 Guidelines

About the Apprenticeship Program

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. In 2019, 2020, and 2021, the apprenticeship program application will focus on the traditional folk arts and culture of North Carolina’s Appalachian communities as part of the three-year In These Mountains project sponsored by South Arts. Applications will be reviewed by a panel, and two mentor/apprentice pairings will be selected each year.

All applicants must be 18 years or older.

Mentor artists will receive a grant award of $7,000. Apprentices will receive a grant award of $3,000. Applicants will describe who is responsible for any supply costs. Typically, the apprentice is expected to cover the cost of supplies. Alternative distributions of funding may be considered upon request.

Applications are due on April 5, 2021. Selected pairs will be announced in May. Apprenticeships will take place from July 2021 through June 2022.

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 becomes 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 the arts and practices of the people, and are typically taught through one-on-one training in a community setting.

Such practices include traditional music, crafts, visual arts, dances, foodways, calendar or life-cycle customs, verbal arts, healing arts, and occupational skills.

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.

Eligibility: Who May Apply?

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. For application cycles in 2019, 2020, and 2021, only apprenticeship pairs within Appalachian Regional Commission 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, professional teachers, 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 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 the Grantee Requirements page.

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.

How To Apply

Download the full guidelines and application form

The mentor and apprentice must submit all materials as a single application. Part A (Mentor Application) is to be completed by the mentor, Part B (Apprentice Application) is to be completed by the apprentice, and Part C (Work Plan) is to be completed by the mentor and apprentice together.

Please type or hand-write in clear, legible print. You may use extra sheets of paper if needed.

To request that a hard-copy of the application be mailed to you, contact Folklife Director Zoe van Buren at​​ or 646-247-4394.

If submitting electronically, please email the application and all support materials to​​

If sending through US Postal Service, please mail application and support materials to:
N.C. Arts Council
Attn: Zoe van Buren
4632 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4600

If sending through FedEx or UPS or for hand delivery, please mail to:
N.C. Arts Council
Attn: Zoe van Buren
109 E. Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27601

Applications must be received in our office by 5 p.m. on Monday, April 5, 2021.

Sending Support Materials

Both mentor and apprentice must submit work samples with the application. Use the Work Samples page of the application to describe each attached sample or how web materials may be accessed online. Links to videos on YouTube, Vimeo, or a similar accessible website may be submitted as work samples.

For Musical or Verbal Traditions

  • At least two (2) audio or video samples from each artist, submitted as either a hard copy or online. Please limit total time of work samples to 10 minutes for each artist. Check with N.C. Arts Council folklife staff if you are having problems with work samples.

For Crafts, Material Culture, and Foodways

  • At least five (5) images from each artist, and no more than ten (10), submitted as either a hard copy or online. Optional: Up to two (2) video samples from each artist, submitted as either a hard copy or online. Please limit total time of video work samples to ten (10) minutes for each artist. Check with folklife staff if you are having problems with work samples.

For Dance, Folk Theater, Calendar or Life-Cycle Customs

  • At least two (2) video samples from each artist, submitted as either a hard copy or online. Please limit total time of work samples to ten (10) minutes for each artist. Five (5) to ten (10) images from each artist submitted as either a hard copy or online. Check with folklife staff if you are having problems with work samples.