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Chris Pereji playing tabla drums with apprentice Nisha Purushotham. Photo by Maggie Holtzberg.

Traditional Arts Apprenticeships

Application Process

The Traditional Arts Apprenticeships are two-year grants awarded every other year and supported in part with funds received from the National Endowment for the Arts. Since 2001, Mass Cultural Council has funded 88 apprenticeships.

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How to Apply

  1. Review the program guidelines below and FAQs.


  2. Learn more about requesting an accommodation for accessibility or requesting translation services​.


  3. Create an individual user profile for the mentor artist in the grants management system.


  4. Complete the online application. The mentor artist and apprentice must submit one application together. The mentor artist may elect to share the username/password with the apprentice, so each has access to the application. Only one person should work in each section at a time and save their work often.

  5. If you would like guidance on understanding the process or feedback on a draft, please contact Maggie Holtzberg by March 24, 2022.


  6. Submit the online application by the extended deadline of April 3, 2022 at 11:59pm (ET).


Questions? Contact Maggie Holtzberg, Ph.D. at 617-858-2713.


Program Guidelines


Apprenticeship: A time-honored teaching method by which an individual learns skills, techniques, and artistry under the guidance of a skilled practitioner.

The Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program is designed to:

  • Fund mentorships where apprentices learn directly by observing, imitating, and processing the critique of the mentor artis
  • Support traditional arts lacking a strong infrastructure for cultural transmission, especially those that may be endangered
  • Help communities preserve their cultural heritage

We encourage all artists practicing traditional music and instrument-making, sacred and secular crafts, occupational traditions, folk and ethnic dance, and expressive culture associated with seasonal celebrations to apply.

Mentor/Applicant Eligibility

You are eligible to apply if:

  • You are 18 years or older.
  • You have achieved a high level of skill in a traditional art form, learned their skills from acknowledged experts within the tradition, and are held in high esteem by your peers.
  • You are already mentoring an individual apprentice who demonstrates interest and competency in the traditional art form and long-term commitment to carrying the tradition forward.
  • You and your apprentice are “legal residents” of Massachusetts at the time of application and will be for the duration of the apprenticeship. We define “legal resident” as someone who meets the definition of a full-year resident in the Massachusetts tax code.

Recipients of FY21-22 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program grants (July 2020 – June 2022) are not eligible for this cycle, FY23-24 (July 2022 – June 2024). They may apply again in the FY25-26 cycle (July 2024 – June 2026).

Mass Cultural Council board members, staff, and their immediate family members are not eligible.

Apprenticeship Eligibility

To be eligible, your proposed apprenticeship must meet the following requirements:

  • The proposed apprenticeship must be in a traditional art form.

Traditional art forms are deeply-rooted cultural traditions that have evolved over time. They reflect a community’s shared sense of aesthetics and meaning and are shaped by culturally-defined standards of excellence. Traditional arts are typically passed on within familial, ethnic, tribal, religious, or occupational communities.

A direct line of transmission within the community in which the art form originated is ideal but not always possible. Apprenticeships in historical styles (e.g., Colonial-era crafts) in which a direct line of transmission has been lost are eligible provided that the mentor artist is practicing with historical accuracy and cultural knowledge of the tradition.

  • Apprenticeship activities must be conducted in Massachusetts between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2024.
  • The mentor artist and apprentice will meet no less than 80 hours over the course of each year (July 1 to June 30) for a minimum of 160 hours over the two-year period.
  • The mentor artist must submit a work plan that specifies what is to be taught and how (including the traditional techniques and methods involved) and must give a clear sense of how much time the mentor and apprentice will be working together.
  • To encourage the participation of apprentice artists from all income levels, mentors must compensate apprentices who are 18 years of age or older.

Grant Duration & Funding

Apprenticeships must take place between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2024. Awards have ranged from $8,000 to $10,000 per year for a total of $16,000 to $20,000 over the two years. The award amount for the first year of the FY23-24 Traditional Arts Apprenticeships is $10,000 each.

All funding is subject to the National Endowment for the Arts’ and Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ final appropriations annually.

Use of Funds

Traditional Arts Apprenticeships are funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) which determines how the federal and state matching funds can be used. These funds are restricted to the following allowable NEA expenses:

  1. Mentor Artist Fee: Time spent on apprenticeship planning, preparations, and teaching time for the implementation of approved apprenticeship activities.
  2. Apprentice Stipend: Mentors must compensate apprentices who are 18 years of age or older. A minimum stipend amount of 10% of the grant award must be provided to the apprentice. The mentor artist may choose to provide a higher stipend.

Request and Grant Calculation

The funding request and potential grant amount calculation are based on the total number of apprenticeship hours conducted. The training hours should account for time spent learning as well as preparation.

  • Hourly Rate: $125.
  • Total Request: Total number of training hours over two years x $125 = Total Request

While there is a limit on the grant amount, there is no limit on how many hours you invest in the apprenticeship. Applicants should request funding for their full apprenticeship knowing the grant may only be able to fund a portion of the time.

Application Components

The mentor artist and the apprentice must submit one application. A complete grant application contains the following:

  • Applicant Information (Mentor Artist)
  • Apprenticeship Information
  • Mentor Artist Narrative
  • Apprenticeship Narrative
  • Work Plan
  • Letters of Recommendation (for Mentor Artist and Apprentice)
  • Work Samples (for Mentor Artist and Apprentice)

Letters of Recommendation

Letter of Support for Mentor Artist: Upload at least one, but no more than three, letter(s) of recommendation from a folklorist, practicing peer, and/or member of the community who is knowledgeable about your traditional art. The letter should address where your work stands within the tradition, your teaching/mentoring experience, and why working with this particular apprentice promises to help sustain the viability of your traditional art.

Letter of Support for Apprentice: Upload at least one, but no more than two letter(s) of support for the apprentice. The letter of support should be written by someone knowledgeable about the traditional art you wish to study. The letter should address what experience you already have in the traditional art, your potential for learning one-on-one, and any other details regarding your potential as an apprentice to this particular mentor artist.

Mentor Artist and Apprentice Work Samples

Both the mentor artist and the apprentice must submit samples of their own work. Work samples should demonstrate artistic quality and technical ability. This enables the selection panel to evaluate the artistic quality for both parties. Panelists may review some or all of submitted material.

Your work sample(s) should be submitted according to the specific instructions for your Traditional Arts category (Folk/Traditional Dance, Folk/Traditional Music, Folk/Traditional Crafts & Visual Arts, Oral Traditions (includes folk/traditional storytelling). Panelists may view some or all of any submitted material.

Video/Audio: The following file formats may be used: ogg, mp4, mov, flv, ogv, webm, wmv, mkv, avi, mov, rm, asf, rmvb, mpg, mpeg, mpg, mp2, m4v, 3gp, and 3g2 (video) and mp3, flac, wma, wav, ra, rm, mid, and midi (audio). The maximum file size is 2 GB.

Images: Must be uploaded as a jpg, jpeg, gif, or png. The maximum file size is 2 GB.  Please name each file with the title of the corresponding work sample.

Folk/Traditional Dance

Please upload up to five audio or video sample(s). If you are part of an ensemble or a dance teacher, please include descriptive information so that it is clear who you are in the video. When submitting your work sample(s), please name each file with the title of the corresponding work sample.

Folk/Traditional Music

Please upload up to five audio or video sample(s). Name each file with the title of the corresponding work sample.

Folk/Traditional Oral Traditions (including folk/traditional storytelling)

Please submit up to five audio or video sample(s) by uploading them. Name each file with the title of the corresponding work sample.

Folk/Traditional Crafts & Visual Arts

Please upload five digital images of your work. If possible, include an image that shows the place in which your work is created.

Grant Review Process and Review Criteria

All complete applications submitted by the application deadline will be reviewed by an independent panel of folklorists, ethnomusicologists, and traditional artists. Award recommendations are made by Agency staff based on the scoring produced by the panel, and final decisions are made by Mass Cultural Council’s governing board.

Traditional Arts Apprenticeships applications are evaluated and scored on a 100-point scale according to the following six criteria:

  1. Artistic quality of the mentor’s work according to the culturally defined standards of the tradition – 20 points
    • Is the mentor artist recognized as an exemplary practitioner in the art form?
    • Has the artist mastered the technical demands of the tradition with artistic excellence and cultural sensitivity?
  2. Mentor artist teaching ability – 15 points
    • Does the mentor artist have past experience teaching?
    • Does the mentor artist have enough skill and expertise to effectively mentor an apprentice?
  3. Skill and commitment of the apprentice – 15 points
    • Does the apprentice have adequate skill to benefit from working with the mentor?
    • Is the apprentice committed to continuing the tradition?
  4. Feasibility of work plan – 15 points
    • Does the plan provide sufficient and well-thought-out interaction to achieve meaningful results?
  5. Limited availability of mentors/teachers in this art form or skill in Massachusetts – 15 points
    • Is the opportunity to study this art form or skill limited in Massachusetts?
  6. Potential impact of the apprenticeship on the continued vitality of the tradition – 20 points
    • Will this apprenticeship make a significant impact on the cultural transmission and sustainability of this art form?

Grant Requirements

As part of the general terms and conditions of this award, grant recipients of the FY23-24 Traditional Artists Apprenticeship Program (also referred to as grantees) must adhere to the grant requirements outlined below.

Apprenticeship Modifications
Once a grant has been approved, funds can only be used to support the activities described in the approved apprenticeship application. The mentor artist must request Mass Cultural Council’s approval before making any significant changes to the work plan and budget by contacting the Folk Arts & Heritage Program Manager, Maggie Holtzberg, and submitting a change request through the grants management system.

Site Visit
The mentor artist and apprentice will host a site visit during the first year of the apprenticeship during which the Folk Arts & Heritage Program Manager or other qualified folklorist will observe a session and document the teaching/learning process. Ideally site visits will take place in-person but remote visits can be accommodated if necessary.

Interim Report
The mentor artist and apprentice must both complete an interim report in the grants management system at the end of the first year of the apprenticeship describing the progress to-date, any challenges, or anticipated changes going forward. Interim reports are due July 14, 2023.

Final Report
Apprenticeship grantees are required to submit a final report describing what was accomplished during the apprenticeship, how progress was measured throughout the apprenticeship, how the grant helped sustain the traditional art form, and the ways in which the apprenticeship was important to the grantees. Final reports are due on July 15, 2024.

Failure to complete the final report will result in loss of eligibility for all other direct Mass Cultural Council grant programs until the final report has been received.

Record Retention:
Grant funds can only be spent on compensating the mentor artist and the apprentice, therefore detailed records of the time spent on the apprenticeship should be kept. Since this grant includes federal funding, these documents must be retained for a period of three years from the date of the final report.

For questions about how federal funds may be spent or how to document your apprenticeship expenses, please contact Contract Officer Cyndy Gaviglio at 617-858-2711.

Mass Cultural Council has the right to withhold, reduce, or cancel grants if a project:

  • Fails to comply with the terms of the grant contract
  • Fails to meet reporting requirements

Legal and Other Requirements

Accessibility and Non-Discrimination Policies
Mass Cultural Council is committed to ensure that all personnel and service programs, policies, and practices will be formulated and conducted in a manner which will ensure equal access for all people and prevent discrimination not only as a matter of law, but also as a policy designed to encourage the participation of all segments of the Commonwealth’s population in Mass Cultural Council programs and services.

Mass Cultural Council is happy to offer applicants/grantees alternative formats, auxiliary aids, and services necessary so that any individual can participate in the Mass Cultural Council’s programs and services. Contact our staff for help.

Mass Cultural Council is dedicated to creating a workplace, programs, and services that welcome, respect, and value people of all races, color, age, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religions, creeds, ancestry, national origin, disability, and veteran status. Mass Cultural Council will not fund any organization or program that discriminates on the basis of these attributes. We strive to reflect diversity in all activities, programs, and services by removing any barriers to accessibility. Mass Cultural Council and its grantees are expected to be in compliance with:

Mass Cultural Council’s grantees sign a contract (see contract requirements) certifying that they will comply with ADA and Section 504. Mass Cultural Council aims to help grantees understand their obligations and recognize the opportunities that increasing access can support both the public and the grantee. Additional information about Mass Cultural Council’s Accessibility Requirements and Compliance Tools for Grantees are located in our Access Policy.

Reconsideration Policy
An applicant may request reconsideration of a Mass Cultural Council decision on their application if the applicant can demonstrate that Mass Cultural Council failed to follow published application and review procedures. Dissatisfaction with the results of a review does not constitute grounds for reconsideration.

The first step in the reconsideration process is to consult with the appropriate program staff to discuss the review process that concluded in Mass Cultural Council’s decision. If the applicant wishes to pursue a reconsideration, a request must be sent to Mass Cultural Council’s Executive Director, in writing, within 30 days of  Mass Cultural Council’s notification to the applicant of its decision.

Grant Timeline

Application opens: February 8, 2022
Application deadline – extended: April 3, 2022, 11:59pm (ET)
Applicant notification: June 2022
Grants announced: September 2022
Apprenticeships may begin: July 1, 2022
Site visits: Spring 2023
Interim report due: July 14, 2023
Apprenticeships must end: June 30, 2024
Final reports due: July 15, 2024

Proceed to the Online Application

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