Arts Council taking applications for Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant

Master folk musician Brett Ratliff performed with apprentice Nadia Ramlagan at the 2019 Waveland Art Fair in Lexington.

Banjo player Nadia Ramlagan of Lexington has flourished under an apprenticeship with Lexington master musician Brett Ratliff, a partnership facilitated through a Kentucky Arts Council’s Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant that the pair was awarded last year.

The arts council is taking applications for that program for fiscal year 2021. The deadline is March 15.

Ramlagan said the apprenticeship has allowed her to tap into Ratliff’s extensive history with the banjo.

“It’s very special to have been given the opportunity to apprentice with Brett. He’s a wealth of knowledge, and he learned directly from musicians in his community,” she said. “He’s reached a level of mastery that deserves to be recognized by the state of Kentucky.”

Her own experience as a player and an apprentice under Ratliff has shown Ramlagan that the availability of apprenticeships in the folk and traditional arts is fundamental to the survival of those art forms.

“I think participating in the apprenticeship program is choosing to amplify a set of values that includes tradition, craft and community,” she said. “The more people that have this experience, the healthier the state of the tradition, the more it attracts young people, it’s a golden chain.”

The Kentucky Arts Council will continue to extend the reach of its Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant this year thanks to special funding from In These Mountains, an initiative by the regional arts organization South Arts.

The arts council, which for 28 years has funded the opportunity for master artists to work with apprentices to pass on folk and traditional art forms, will award additional apprenticeships through an opportunity available to artists who live in counties that are part of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

The arts council is accepting applications for the Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant from masters and apprentices who live in any Kentucky county. Additionally, Kentucky-based masters who live in one of the state’s 54 ARC counties are able to seek apprentices in other ARC counties in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

A master artist can practice any traditional art form (music, dance, craft, ceremonial art, storytelling, etc.) learned in his or her community. The $3,000 grants help master folk artists teach the skills, practices and culture of Kentucky’s living traditional arts to less experienced artists who are part of that same creative discipline.

Kentucky’s ARC counties include: Adair, Bath, Bell, Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Casey, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Edmonson, Elliott, Estill, Fleming, Floyd, Garrard, Green, Greenup, Harlan, Hart, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Lewis, Lincoln, McCreary, Madison, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Metcalfe, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Nicholas, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Powell, Pulaski, Robertson, Rockcastle, Rowan, Russell, Wayne, Whitley and Wolfe. In addition, Kentucky master artists may teach apprentices who live in ARC counties in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Master artists and tradition-bearers are exemplary representatives of a folk group’s art forms. Their “master” status is determined by other members of the group. The master artist must excel in the art form and demonstrate an effective teaching plan. The apprentice must possess skill in the art form and the potential to share, teach and continue the art form.

For more information, or to apply for the grant, visit the Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant page of the arts council’s website; or contact Mark Brown, arts council folk and traditional arts director, at mark.brown@ky.gov or 502-892-3115.

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