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

Traditional Arts Apprenticeships

Application Process

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 provides funding for highly-skilled craftspeople and performing artists to mentor apprentices in one-on-one learning experiences of traditional music, craft, or dance. Whether handcrafted or performed, traditional art reflects a community’s shared sense of aesthetics and meaning. Traditional art forms are typically passed from generation to generation, most often within familial, ethnic, tribal, religious, or occupational communities.

How to Apply

  1. Review the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship guidelines and application instructions below and FAQs.

  2. Before applying, discuss your application with Maggie Holtzberg, Program Manager for Folk and Traditional Arts.

  3. Create an individual user profile for the mentor artist on Mass Cultural Council’s online grants management system.

  4. Log-in to access the online application. The mentor artist and the 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 online application.

  5. Complete all the components of the application (see application instructions below), and submit them online no later than 11:59 pm on March 31, 2022. Submissions received after that time will be ineligible for consideration.

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


Program Overview

The Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program is designed to:

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

To allow for more in-depth learning and to take advantage of the summer months, starting in 2020, Mass Cultural Council is extending this program from 10 months to a two-year apprenticeship. The apprenticeships will continue to be awarded every other year.

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

Since 2001, Mass Cultural Council has funded a wide variety of apprenticeships in long settled and new immigrant communities across the state — from wooden boat building to Wampanoag regalia making, Cape Breton fiddling to Albanian folk dance, and Puerto Rican mask-making to Chinese calligraphy and seal carving.

Program Guidelines

Who May Apply?

Artists who 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 their peers. Mentor artists must be 18 years or older.

Apprentices who demonstrate interest and competency in the traditional art form prior to the apprenticeship and show serious promise and long-term commitment to carrying the tradition forward.

Both the mentor artist and the apprentice must be legal residents of Massachusetts at the time of application and for the full duration of the apprenticeship. Mass Cultural Council defines “legal resident” as someone who meets the definition of a “full-year resident” as stated in the Massachusetts tax code. Visit the Mass Department of Revenue web site to learn more.

Mass Cultural Council board members, staff, and their immediate family members are ineligible.

Apprenticeship Eligibility

The proposed apprenticeship must be in a traditional (as opposed to popular or commercial) 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. Shaped by 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.

The Apprenticeship Program is designed to fund more than just lessons; it is intended to support a special, mentoring relationship between one mentor artist and one apprentice. It should also have the potential to positively impact the long-term sustainability of the traditional art form.

The program does not fund ongoing classes or school, nor is it intended for a situation where there is already a strong infrastructure in place for the cultural transmission of the art form.

Eligible apprenticeship must include:

Training Period: Apprenticeship activities shall be conducted in Massachusetts and implemented between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2024.

Apprenticeship Work Plan: The mentor artist is responsible for the oversight and implementation the work plan.

  • The work plan must specify the location, frequency, and duration of the training sessions. At minimum, the mentor artist and apprentice are expected to meet (on average) no less than two hours per week.
  • The work plan must specify not only what is to be taught (e.g., techniques, skills, repertoire) but how it will be taught.
  • The mentor artist is responsible for monitoring the apprentice’s progress.

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.

Public Event: The mentor artist and apprentice will plan and give a joint, public presentation prior to the conclusion the apprenticeship. For apprenticeships longer than 12 months, the public event will be completed during the second year.

  • All events/performances must be accessible and open to the public. Examples of past public events have included performing at a venue or public event, offering a master class, hosting an open studio, or exhibiting at a local library or gallery.
  • Mass Cultural Council and the National Endowment for the Arts must be appropriately credited in all marketing and promotional materials for this public event.

Grant Duration & Funding

Apprenticeships must take place between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2024. Applicants may request up to $10,000 per year, for a total of up to $20,000 per apprenticeship. All funding is annually subject to the National Endowments for the Arts and Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ final appropriations.

Use of Funds:

Grant funds can be used to pay for apprenticeship expenses in four categories: Mentor Artist Fees, Travel, the Apprenticeship Public Event, and Supplies/Materials.

Mentor Artist Fees: Funds are primarily intended to compensate the mentor artist for teaching time. This is typically the largest line item in the budget. The suggested hourly fee is between $50 and $75 an hour.

  • How to calculate the Mentor Artist Fee: Mentor Artist fee = [number of lessons] x [number of hours] x [hourly fee].

Travel: In state and regional travel costs for mentor and apprentice, including travel to obtain supplies or attend related events, may also be requested.

  • How to calculate Travel: Travel = [number of trips] x [number of miles] x $0.57

Public Event: Funds may be requested for programmatic aspects of the public event. Some examples include rental of event space and event promotional materials.

Supplies and Materials: Supplies, tools, and materials may also be requested in the apprenticeship budget. Examples include items such as specialized tools, fabric for a quilter, wood for a shipwheel maker, strings for musical instruments, and costumes.

  • For this grant program, capital expenditures are not typically considered for funding. Capital expenditures are items that cost more than $500 with a lifespan greater than 3 years.
  • In rare circumstances, the review panel may consider a capital expense, if the item is reasonable and integral to the success of the apprenticeship. Applicants should discuss any possible capital expenses with the Program Manager prior to applying to determine if such a request would be competitive.

Spending Restrictions

Traditional Arts Apprenticeships are funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The NEA determines how the federal and state matching funds can be spent.  Therefore, you cannot spend funds on the following items as part of your apprenticeship:

  • Alcoholic beverages.
  • Gifts and prizes. This includes cash prizes, gift certificates/cards, or any other items with monetary value.
  • Marketing expenses that are not directly related to the project.
  • Hospitality costs and social functions such as receptions, parties, and galas.
  • Rental costs for home office workspace.
  • Concessions including food, beverages, T-shirts, posters, and other items for resale.
  • Visa costs paid to the U.S. government.
  • Costs incurred before or after the approved apprenticeship period.

Grant Review Process and Review Criteria

All completed grant applications received by the application deadline are reviewed by an independent panel of experts in traditional arts that includes folklorists and ethnomusicologists. Mass Cultural Council’s Grants Committee then reviews the panel’s recommendations, and Mass Cultural Council’s Board makes the final award decisions.

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

  1. Artistic quality of the mentor’s work according to the 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 and budget – 15 points
    • Does the plan and budget provide sufficient and well-thought-out interaction to achieve meaningful results?
    • Is the budget reasonable and does it align with the programmatic and funding guidelines?
  5. Limited availability of mentor 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, recipients of the FY22-24 Traditional Artists Apprenticeship Award (also referred to as grantees) must adhere to the grant requirements outlined below.

Reporting Requirements

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 Program Manager.

Interim Report: The mentor artist and apprentices must both complete an interim report at the end of the first year of the apprenticeship describing the progress to date, any challenges or anticipated changes going forward, and provide an updated budget for the coming year. Interim reports are due June 30, 2023.

Final Report: All Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grantees are required to submit a final report describing what was accomplished during the apprenticeship, how the apprentice’s progress was measured, what the public event was, if and how the grant helped sustain the traditional art form, and in what ways the apprenticeship was important to the grantees. Final reports are due on June 30, 2024.

  • If an apprenticeship ends prior to June 30, 2024, then the final report is due June 30, 2023.

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 recipients are expected to keep all receipts and maintain financial records that document how the grant funds were spent. 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 Mass Cultural Council, Contract Officer, Cyndy Gaviglio at 617-858-2711.

The 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 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 the 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 the Mass Cultural Council’s decision. If the applicant wishes to pursue a reconsideration, a request must be sent to the Mass Cultural Council’s Executive Director, in writing, within 30 days of the Mass Cultural Council’s notification to the applicant of its decision.

Application Instructions

The Mentor Artist and the Apprentice must submit one application. A complete grant application must contain the following:

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

Letters of Recommendation

Letter of Support for Mentor Artist (required): 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 (required): Upload at least one, but no more than two letters 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.

Each letter of recommendation should be:

  • On 8 1/2″ x 11″ pages.
  • Typed in Times, Helvetica, or equivalent font, no smaller than 12 point in size.
  • Formatted with at least 1″ margins on all sides.
  • Signed and uploaded as a PDF file.

Mentor Artist and Apprentice Work Samples (required)

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 applicants. Panelists may review some or all of submitted material.

Work Sample Instructions

All work samples must be received by the grant application deadline. Applicants may submit the work samples by uploading each file to the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Application Dropbox or by providing a link (URL) to the work sample in the grant application. For performance genres, we strongly recommend that work samples not exceed 20 minutes.

Dropbox: All applicants will receive the dropbox link for the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship after the online application form is submitted. Dropbox accepts the following file formats:

  • JPG, MP3, WMA, FLAC, MOV, MP4, MV4, or WMV.
  • The maximum file size is 1 GB.

URL Submission: if the samples are available online (such as on a personal Web site, or YouTube, SoundCloud, Flickr, etc.) applicants should include the link to the URL in the grant application. The URL must link directly to the work sample.

Each work sample must be submitted according to the specific instructions for your traditional arts category and media type with the following information:

  1. Work Sample Title:
  2. Work Sample Description:
  3. Year Completed:
  4. Media Type:

Dance/Ethnic Theater
Please submit up to FIVE audio or video sample(s). For each work sample, provide the title, a brief description of the work sample, the year completed, and cue point(s). If the work sample includes other artists, also include descriptive information so that it is clear who you are in the footage.

Music/Verbal Arts
Please submit up to FIVE audio or video sample(s) For each work sample, provide the title, a brief description of the work sample, the year completed, and cue point(s). If the work sample includes other artists, also include descriptive information so that it is clear who you are in the footage.

Please submit FIVE digital images of your work. If possible, include an image that shows the place where the work is created. For each work sample, provide the title, a brief description of the work sample and the year completed. Please name each .jpg file with the title of the corresponding work sample.

  • Digital images must be a minimum of 300 dpi
  • Pixel dimension of 1920 pixels (horizontal or vertical) preferred.
  • Each digital image must be saved as a .jpg file.

Address all Folk Craft to the attention of:
Maggie Holtzberg
Program Manager, Folk Arts & Heritage
Mass Cultural Council
10 St. James Ave 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02116

Panelists may view some or all of any submitted material.

Grant Timeline

Online application available: February 1, 2022

Application deadline: March 31, 2022, 11:59pm (ET)

Preliminary notification: June 2022

Grants announced: September 2022

Apprenticeships may begin: July 1, 2022

Site visits: Spring of 2023

Interim Report due: June 30, 2024

Public event completed by June 30, 2024

Apprenticeships must end: June 30, 2022

Final Reports due: July 15, 2024

Proceed to the Online Application

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