Virginia Folklife Program

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Master & Apprentice Program

About The Program

The Folklife Apprenticeship pairs an experienced master artist with an eager apprentice for a one-on-one, nine month learning experience, in order to help ensure that a particular art form is passed on in ways that are conscious of history and faithful to tradition. The master artist is one who has achieved a high level of skill in the particular traditional art form, who is regarded as a master of the craft by his/her peers, and who has learned and developed his/her skill within its traditional context. The apprentice is one who has demonstrated an interest and competency in the art form prior to the apprenticeship, and who shows a sincere commitment to learning the nuances of the tradition, and carrying the tradition on into the future. Since we intend apprenticeships to reinforce traditional life and values within a community, we give preference to apprentices who wish to study traditions within their own cultural group.

Apprenticeships accomplish more than the teaching and learning of a particular craft or skill. During the duration of the apprenticeship period, the master artist and apprentice enter into a mutually enriching relationship, both cultural and personal, connecting both to lessons and memories from the past, and shared visions for the future. The apprenticeships are more than “workshops” or “lessons.” The apprentices learn their chosen craft not in classrooms or lecture halls, but in their traditional contexts, calling upon the complete engagement of the senses, and a deeper appreciation for the many ways in which the traditional art form operates within its larger cultural landscape. Through this intimate one-on-one apprenticeship, the apprentice is able to access the subtle nuances of the particular traditional form — those elusive qualities of the craft that have invested it with such cultural resonance and traditional resilience.


The Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program began in August of 2002. Every year a class of masters and apprentices are awarded Virginia Folklife Apprenticeships. Spanning regions and disciplines, these recipients embody Virginia folklife in all its richness and diversity. The list of master artists reads as a veritable who’s-who in Virginia traditional arts, from recent National Heritage Fellowship winner Flory Jagoda to legendary Eastern Shore decoy carver Grayson Chesser. Their eager apprentices, talented and accomplished in their own right, represent the future of Virginia’s treasured folkways. The Virginia Folklife Program earnestly hopes that, by supporting and cultivating the transmission of Virginia’s traditional arts, the Apprenticeship Program will be a key feature of the Commonwealth’s cultural landscape for many years to come.

Apply For an Apprenticeship

The Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program will award apprenticeships annually, and those interested are encouraged to apply for subsequent periods. Applications for apprenticeships are welcome in all forms of Virginia’s traditional, expressive culture — from decoy carving to fiddle making, from crab-trap building to quilt stitching, from apple butter making to old time banjo playing, from African-American gospel singing to Cambodian-American costume making.

For the 2014-2015 cycle, the Apprenticeships will begin on September 1, 2014 and run through May 31, 2015. Applications must be postmarked now by June 30, 2014, though we encourage you to submit an application before the deadline.

Complete details can be found by downloading our Guidelines & Application.