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

Traditional Arts Apprenticeships


What is an apprenticeship in traditional arts?
The Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program provides funding for mentor artists to mentor apprentices in one-on-one learning experiences of traditional music, craft, or dance.

What kind of art forms does this program support?
Traditional art forms that reflect a community’s shared sense of aesthetics and meaning; they are shaped by standards of excellence that are passed from generation to generation, most often within familial, ethnic, tribal, religious, or occupational communities. Examples include music and instrument-making, sacred and secular crafts, occupational traditions like boat-building and blacksmithing, folk and ethnic dance, and expressive culture associated with religious belief or seasonal celebrations.

What do you mean by “occupational community”?
An occupational community is one defined through work, where skills are typically learned directly through observation and imitation from someone steeped in the tradition rather than through institutional instruction. Members of an occupational community share knowledge, skills, terminology, and group identity (e.g., boat-builders, letterpress printers, hair braiders.)

Can a mentor artist have more than one apprentice?
No. The program is designed to support one-on-one learning between a mentor artist and an apprentice.

Can an apprentice or mentor live outside of Massachusetts?
No. Both must be Massachusetts residents for the full duration of the apprenticeship. If one wishes to work with someone from Connecticut or Rhode Island, consider applying to the Southern New England Apprenticeship Program.

I’m from a different community or heritage group than the mentor artist. Is this a problem?
One goal of the Apprenticeship Program is to help communities preserve their own cultural heritage. The strongest applications tend to be those that include the pairing of mentors and apprentices who are members of the same ethnic, religious, or occupational group.

Do the mentor artist and apprentice need to submit separate grant applications?
No, the mentor artist and the apprentice MUST complete and submit one grant application together. More than one person can work on a grant application if both the mentor and apprentice login to Mass Cultural Council’s grants management system with the same username and password. Only one person should work in each section at a time and save their work often.

I received an Artist Fellowship in Traditional Arts from Mass Cultural Council this year. Can I also apply for the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship?
Yes. But note that recipients of FY21-22 Apprenticeship Program grants are not eligible for this cycle (FY23-24). They may apply in the FY25-26 cycle.

Apprenticeship Duration & Funding

How long does the apprenticeship last?
The apprenticeship will be conducted for two years and must take place between July 1, of the first year, and June 30, two years later. The minimum time spent together per year is 80 hours. A work plan and budget must specify session frequency and duration.

Can I apply for only one year?
Although we will consider a one-year application, we will give priority to those applicants who are willing to make a two-year commitment.

How much money is available for each apprenticeship?
Past 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 amounts were set in August 2022. All funding is annually subject to the National Endowments for the Arts’ and Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ final appropriations.

What can the grant money be spent on?
Funding is primarily intended to compensate the mentor artist for time spent on the apprenticeship including time spent planning, preparing, and teaching. Mentors have to compensate apprentices that are 18 years of age or older to encourage participation of apprenticeships from all income levels.

Apprenticeship Program Design

What things should I consider when creating my apprenticeship work plan?
The mentor and the apprentice need to meet and talk through plans for the apprenticeship. Among the points to be clarified are where, when, how often, and how long each training session will be. Goals for learning specific techniques or processes also should be determined. The mentor artist is responsible for monitoring the apprentice’s progress, as outlined in the application work plan.

What if we need to make changes to the work plan?
Contact Maggie Holtzberg, as soon as possible to discuss any changes you are considering. Any significant changes to the work plan and budget must be approved in advance.

Is there a reporting requirement?
An interim report due June 30 of the first year of the apprenticeship should describe the progress to date, challenges, or problems to be addressed. Interim reports are submitted through Mass Cultural Council’s grants management system and are due by July 14, 2023.

A final report due no later than July 15 of the second year of the apprenticeship should describe what was accomplished, 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 July 15, 2024.

How are the grant recipients selected?
A panel of independent experts in traditional art including folklorists, ethnomusicologists, and tradition bearers evaluate applications according to the following review criteria:

  • Artistic quality of the mentor’s work according to the culturally defined standards of the tradition
  • Mentor artist teaching ability
  • Skill and commitment of the apprentice
  • Feasibility of work plan and budget
  • Limited availability of mentor teachers in the art form
  • Potential impact of the apprenticeship on the continuing vitality of the tradition

Mass Cultural Council’s Grants Committee then reviews the panel’s recommendations, and the governing Council makes the final award decisions.

How can I find out if I have been selected for the apprenticeship?
Applicants will be notified in June via email. Successful applicants will be informed that they have been recommended for funding by Mass Cultural Council, and final funding decisions will be announced in early September 2022.

When can I start my apprenticeship?
Successful applicants that have been recommended for funding may start on or after July 1, 2022. Amount of grant will be announced in early September 2022.

All grant funding is subject to National Endowment for the Arts’ and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ annual budget appropriations.

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