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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?
The apprenticeship program supports 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 boatbuilding 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., boatbuilders, letterpress printers, hair braiders.)


Who can apply for this grant?
A mentor artist and an apprentice who meet the criteria below are eligible to apply:

  • Mentor artists: Individuals who have achieved a high level of skill in a traditional art form, have learned their skills from an acknowledged expert within the tradition, and are held in high esteem by their peers. Mentor artists must be 18 years or older.
  • Apprentices: Individuals 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.

Can a mentor artist have more than one apprentice?
No. The program is designed to support one-one-one learning between a mentor artist and one 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 with the same username and password. Only one person should work in each section at a time and save work often.

I received funding for the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship two years ago. May I apply again?
Yes, a past recipient may submit a new grant application for this apprenticeship program. The traditional arts apprenticeships are awarded every other year.

I received a fellowship in traditional arts from Mass Cultural Council this year, Can I also apply for the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship?
Yes, you may apply even if you were awarded a fellowship in the traditional arts from Mass Cultural Council.

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 should average no less than two hours a week. 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.

If my apprenticeship project is only 14-months long, can I still apply, or does the apprenticeship need to take place over the full two-year period (24 months)?
You can still apply; however, the amount of funding will reflect the amount of time specified in the work plan and budget of the apprenticeship.

How much money is available for each apprenticeship?
Applicants may request up to $10,000 per program year, for a total of up to $20,000 per apprenticeship. The amount requested by the applicant must be directedly related to specific apprenticeship activities that are described clearly in the work plan and budget of the grant application.

What can the grant award money be spent on?
Funding is primarily intended to compensate the mentor artist for teaching time. Funds may also be used to pay for supplies, materials, and travel expenses (in state and regional). The funds can only be used to support the activities described in the approved apprenticeship application.

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 have to be approved in advance.

What is meant by a public presentation?
The mentor artist and apprentice are expected to give a joint public presentation near the end of the apprenticeship. Examples include performing at a venue or public event, offering a mentor class, holding an open studio, or exhibiting at a local library or gallery. All public performances must be accessible to the public. Please review Mass Cultural Council’s Access Policy. Mass Cultural Council and the National Endowment for the Arts must be credited in all marketing and promotional materials.

Is there a reporting requirement?
An interim report due June 30th of the first year of the apprenticeship should describe the progress to date, challenges, or problems to be addressed. A final report due June 30th of the second year of the apprenticeship should describe what was accomplished, the public event, if and how the grant helped sustain the traditional art form, and in what ways the apprenticeship was important to the grantees.

How are the grant recipients selected?
A panel of independent experts in traditional art including folklorists and ethnomusicologists evaluate applications according to the following review criteria: artistic quality of the mentor’s work, 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, and potential impact of the apprenticeship on the continuing vitality of the tradition. Mass Cultural Council Grants Committee then reviews the panel’s recommendations, and Mass Cultural 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 September.

When can I start my apprenticeship?

Successful applicants that have been recommended for funding may start on or after July 1, 2020.

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

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