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Home / Blog / Artists & Art / Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Teams to Share their Work

Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Teams to Share their Work

Maggie Holtzberg, Program Manager

Attend one of their culminating events this summer

A dry fieldstone wall can last hundreds of years, but the knowledge of how to build one is easily lost. Wonderful bodies of lore, song, craft, and dance can fade away unless they are intentionally passed on and learned by the next generation.

The Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program is a vital part of Mass Cultural Council’s strategy to help the many diverse communities in Massachusetts preserve their cultural heritage. Through one-on-on mentorships an individual learns skills, techniques, and artistry under the guidance of a recognized practitioner. Apprenticeships help strengthen traditional arts lacking a strong infrastructure for cultural transmission, especially those that may be endangered.  

The end of June marks the completion of 12 Traditional Arts Apprenticeships funded by Mass Cultural Council. Culminating the end of their two-year apprenticeships, teams share what they have accomplished by participating in various public events:

June 8: Handmade side-seamed western bootmaking

Apprentice Diana Wagner holding her boot with mentor Sarah Guerin in Sarah’s ten-footer studio.

Diana Wagner will share her experience as an apprentice bootmaker working under Sarah M. Guerin’s guidance. The June 8 conversation is hosted by the Lynn Historical Museum as part of their Museum Enrichment Series for All. The conversation will take place over Zoom and be live-streamed to Facebook.

June 13: Traditional Irish Step Dancing

two women Irish Step Dancing indoors before a brick wall
Apprentice Rebecca McGowan (left) and mentor artist Kieran Jordan (right), 2021.

Join an open rehearsal and workshop with Kieran Jordan and Rebecca McGowan. Participants will have a chance to watch their recent work at the Deborah Mason Performing Arts Center, a dance studio located at 624 Somerville Ave., Somerville.

June 22: The Music of Epirus

headshots of Vasilis Kostas (left) and Lysander Jaffe (right)
Vasilis Kostas (left) and Lysander Jaffe (right)

This concert features Vasilis Kostas on the lauto and and Lysander Jaffe on the violin playing the music of Epirus at the Harvard Musical Association, 57A Chestnut St, Boston. The 7:30 p.m. concert is free (donations accepted), but since capacity is limited, attendees are asked to reserve spots.  Proof of vaccination is required.

August 5-6: Bird taxidermy

two people seated at a table sewing a taxidermied animal. A row of taxidermied animal heads hangs in a row on the wall behind them.
Victor Cole (left) mentors Nicole Baldelli (right) on bird taxidermy.

Nicole (Nikki) Baldelli was mentored by Victor Cole, one of New England’s most sought-after bird taxidermists.

Mid-way through her apprenticeship, Nikki entered the 2021 Maine Association of Taxidermists’ Annual competition and received Best of Category Bird in Amateur’s Division and 1st Place in Amateur’s Division. Nikki will share her progress by in the 2022 Maine Association of Taxidermist’s Annual Convention and Competition on August 5-6.

“Without the apprenticeship funding,” Victor says, “I don’t think this would have happened. She lives over an hour away from me, so that’s an issue. The fact that the apprenticeship program required us to do a study plan and think through the process of everything she would need to know, has been extremely helpful. And I think that shows in the work she’s doing today. I look forward to one day passing the torch to her and sending my clients to her to do their birds for them. And I know they’ll be very pleased.”

Late Summer/Early Fall

Two maritime craft apprenticeships will present jointly at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum on a date TBD this fall:

  • Master shipwright Harold A. Burnham and his apprentice Katherine Dench (KD) have been working on wooden shipbuilding and the historic restoration of the Sylvina Beal, the oldest surviving American knockabout fishing schooner. (Recordings of public events they’ve held throughout their apprenticeship are available on YouTube.)
  • Robert Fuller and his daughter Christina Fuller will discuss their apprenticeship on designing and building a new wooden steering wheel for the Sylvina Beal. The wheel will be presented to the museum and will be on display until Harold and KD are finished restoring the Sylvina Beal.

Mehmet Sanlikol and George Lernis will give a recital at the Lily Pad in Cambridge on September 29 at 7pm showcasing their apprenticeship in classical Ottoman/Turkish music on the santur (hammered dulcimer).

Culminating Event from Earlier in 2022

Handmade Indigenous jewelry
Handmade Indigenous jewelry

Hand-sculpted wampum

Elizabeth James-Perry and Erin Genia presented at the SNAG (Society of North American Goldsmiths) conference in Providence on June 3, 2022. Although they didn’t work in gold during the apprenticeship, SNAG heard about their work in jewelry and adornment more broadly and invited them to speak on how they approach their materials from the standpoint of advocacy and environmentally sensitive practice.

Apprentice Erin Genia said, “I have gained immeasurably from our sessions not only in the field of quahog carving and weaving, but in all its associations – gathering materials, ecology, traditional protocols, stories and understanding the deep connection to the land and sea that working with these materials brings to enhance life.”


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