From Bradley Hanson, Director of Folklife –
The Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program has selected twelve teams to participate in the 2019 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. Entering its third year, the Program is designed to sustain Tennessee’s diverse folklife practices by investing in the passing of traditional art forms from master artists to the next generation.
The Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program has become a key initiative in preserving practices that are rare or endangered in Tennessee. Tennesseans have a wealth of traditional cultures, both old and new; however, many art forms have only a handful of living practitioners. We cannot take these art forms for granted. This program works to ensure that these traditions are a vibrant part of our state’s future.
Each of the twelve teams selected to participate is committed to preserving a traditional folklife art form that is deeply rooted in their cultural heritage. The artists will embark on one-on-one or small group training for an eight-month period.
The master artists awarded this recognition from the Tennessee Arts Commission are considered to be of exceptional skill as recognized by fellow artists, community members, and folk arts leaders. Four of this year’s master and apprentice teams from the Appalachian region are funded through a special partnership with the South Arts’ initiative In These Mountains: Central Appalachian Folk Art & Culture.
The awarded apprentices are chosen by the master artist. Each apprentice demonstrated outstanding aptitude and potential in the chosen traditional art form. Folklife practices include traditional music, crafts, dance, foodways and occupational skills.
“This program does truly critical work. In many ways, Tennessee is defined by its diverse cultural heritage. We have to make sure that these art forms thrive in the future. When you look at these twelve projects, you see an incredible picture of Tennessee culture,” said Steve Bailey, Tennessee Arts Commission board chair.
Folklife art forms are learned and passed down informally by imitation, word of mouth, observation or performance in cultural communities that share family, ethnic, tribal, regional, occupational or religious identity. Folklife is defined by its continuity with tradition and accordance with the enduring values of its originating community.
“Traditional arts are essential to the story we tell about ourselves, and that we tell to visitors,” said Anne B. Pope, Executive Director of the Tennessee Arts Commission. “For many of these artists, this program is an investment in the sustainability of their family business, or in a way of life or set of cultural values that have been deeply held for generations. Folklife practices enhance livability and pride of place in Tennessee communities, especially in our rural areas.”
Masters and apprentices will also share their work together in public performances, demonstrations and in an exhibit at the Tennessee Arts Commission Gallery in the summer of 2019. All projects are documented by the Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program to further archive and preserve the state’s current folklife practices.
A panel of traditional arts and Folklife specialists was convened to review a deep and highly competitive applicant pool. The twelve-awarded teams are:
- Rafael Casco, master, and Hector Figueroa, apprentice, Pigeon Forge. Tradition: Wood Relief Carving and Painting.
- Mike Compton, master, and Jackson Carter, apprentice, Wilson and Overton Counties. Tradition: Monroe-Style Mandolin.
- Paul Davis, master, and Kenzie Adams, apprentice, Celina. Tradition: Flint Marble Making.*
- Hattie Marshall Duncan, master, and Keesha Marshall-Reid, apprentice, Jackson. Tradition: Paper Clay and Wire Sculpture.
- Rhiannon Giddens, master, and Uma Peters, apprentice, Nashville. Tradition: Gourd Banjo.
- Dudley Harris, master, and Rita Nicole Perry, apprentice, Henderson. Tradition: West Tennessee Country Blues.
- Daniel Hicks, Freeda Beaty, Carmen Hicks McCord, masters, and Summer Boyd, Angela Bailey, Mack Bailey, Erin Bailey, apprentices, Fentress and Dickson counties. Tradition: Unaccompanied Balladry.
- Samira Jubran, master, and Areej Itayem, apprentice, Germantown. Tradition: Tatreez Embroidery.
- Will Smith, master, and Sarah Carter, apprentice, Lebanon. Tradition: Autoharp.
- Rick Stewart, master, Brendon Stewart, apprentice, Sneedville. Tradition: Coopering*
- Robert Townsend, master, and Isaiah Northcutt, apprentice, Coalmont. Tradition: Fiddling of the South Cumberlands.*
- Sue Williams, master, and Rhonda Elkins Brown, apprentice, Cannon and Warren Counties. Tradition: White Oak Basketry.*
*These teams are funded through a special partnership with the South Arts’ initiative In These Mountains: Central Appalachian Folk Art & Culture.