Master batá drummer Juan Carlos Blanco Riera (R) and his 2010 apprentice Menelike Turner (L). Photo: Sherwood Chen/ACTA.

Apprenticeship Program

Encouraging the continuity of California’s traditional arts and cultures

PROGRAM CONTACT

Jennifer Joy Jameson (Los Angeles), Program Manager + Media Director, jjameson@actaonline.org, 760-805-8002

jjameson@actaonline.org

For nearly 20 years, ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program has supported California’s cultural traditions with 348 contracts made to outstanding traditional artists and practitioners. 


The Apprenticeship Program encourages the continuity of the state’s thriving traditional arts and cultures by contracting master artists to offer intensive, one-on-one training to qualified apprentices.

Each $3,000 contract will support a period of concentrated learning, from 6 mos. to a year, for apprentices who demonstrate a committed engagement with, and a talent for, a specific traditional art form or cultural practice.

Mahsa Vahdat (R), master Persian singer, and her 2018 apprentice Adrienne Shamszad in Berkeley. Photo: Jennifer Jameson/ACTA.

2007 apprentice Yafonne Chen (L) studies traditional Chinese wushu (sword dance) with Master Ling Mei Zhang (R) in San Francisco. Photo: Sherwood Chen/ACTA.

Khmer classical dancer Prumsodun Ok perfects the posture of his sister and 2009 apprentice Khannia Ok in Long Beach. Photo: Russell Rodriguez/ACTA.

Master of Bulgarian/Romani wedding music (svatbarska muzika), Rumen Shopov (R), with his 2018 apprentice Jesse Stremski-Andrews in Berkeley. Photo: Shweta Saraswat/ACTA.

2010 apprentice Lance Zazueta studied leatherworking under his grandfather and master saddlemaker Gaylerd Thissell in Cottonwood. Photo: Sherwood Chen/ACTA.

2018 apprentice Nelia Marshall (R; Hupa) with master basketweaver Margaret Peters (L; Yurok, Karuk) after foraging for roots to use in the production of Karuk/Yurok baby baskets near the coast of Humboldt Bay. Photo: Shweta Saraswat/ACTA.

Master artist Gilbert “Magu” Lujan (L) and 2008 apprentice in lowrider vehicle construction and lowrider sculpture, Mario Trillo (R) in Los Angeles. Photo: Sherwood Chen/ACTA.

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Program Description

Eva Tam and her apprentice 2019 Teresa Luk practice a Cantonese Opera pose at Eva’s Chinatown studio and opera club in San Francisco. Photo: Jennifer Joy Jameson/ACTA, 2019.

If selected for an Apprenticeship, ACTA enters into a contract with the master artist and apprentice to implement the work plan proposed in the application. The apprenticeship program period may last between six months to one year, in which ACTA staff will work closely with the apprenticeship pair to gauge and document progress and offer assistance and support.

Upon agreeing to the contract the apprenticeship pair will be required to go through an orientation. Near the mid-point of the apprenticeship period, a site visit will be scheduled in which ACTA staff documents the apprenticeship sharing through video recording and photography. The resulting materials become part of ACTA’s permanent archival collections, which is open to the public for educational purposes.

Each apprenticeship team will be required to organize a public presentation (performance, exhibit, lecture demonstration, etc.) in consultation with ACTA staff in order to share the results of their intensive learning cycle. We ask that each apprenticeship pair implement a survey at their public sharing, which ACTA will provide. Finally, submitting written evaluations of the master and apprentice’s experiences completes the requirements of the Apprenticeship Program contract.

 

Applications for the 2020 grant cycle are now closed.

Applications for the 2021 grant cycle will be available here in spring of 2020.

Dixie and Julia

Learn about the 2019 Apprenticeship Cohort

The 2019 Apprenticeship Program cohort of 34 artists (17 pairs) represents California’s breadth of cultural diversity and intergenerational learning.


Timeline

Application Period

Apprenticeship applications open annually in the spring and close late summer. Specific dates are announced on our website once application is open. ACTA staff will also offer informational webinars during the application period and be available to answer questions by phone or email. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for the most up to date info.

Review Period

ACTA staff review submitted applications for eligibility in the summer and early fall. Eligible applications go forward to an external review panel in the fall. Applications recommended for funding are approved by ACTA’s Board in the late fall.

Notification

All applicants will be notified if they received the Apprenticeship by January.


Who is a master artist?  Who is an apprentice?

Apprentice Panuncio Gutiérrez with a recently finished Danza de los Apaches mask and master artist Luis Morales Ortiz holding a recently finished diablo mask in San Diego. Photo: Amy Kitchener/ACTA, 2016.

A master artist is someone who is recognized as an exemplary practitioner of a traditional folk art form by his or her community and peers.

An apprentice is someone who learns from a master artist. Prospective apprentices should demonstrate an intention to enhance their established skills and cultural understanding of the art form by working with a master. The master artist and apprentice must apply together with a mutual desire to work with each other.

What are traditional arts?

Traditional arts are those art forms that are transmitted and engaged as part of the cultural life of a group of people whose members share a common heritage, language, religion, occupation, or region. These expressions are deeply rooted in and reflective of a community’s shared standards of beauty, values, or life experiences. Traditional arts are often passed on from one generation to the next, or from one community member to another, and express a collective wisdom, rather than only a unique personal aesthetic.

Master artist Nzingha Camara teaches apprentice Amber Tell West African dance forms of the Bambara people in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. Photo: Jennifer Joy Jameson/ACTA, 2018.

Some traditional arts have been brought to California from other countries or regions and have taken root here to become interwoven with the state’s cultural landscape and identity, while others have prospered on the more than 130 tribal reservations and rancherias in this state. Japanese bonsai; Cowboy poetry; Hmong reverse appliqué embroidery; Mexican corridos (ballads) and mariachi music; African American quilts; Native American basketry, ceremonial regalia construction and ritual music/dance; South Indian Bharata Natyam dance; Western saddle making; Chinese qin instrumental music; Portuguese fado singing; Native Hawaiian kahiko hula chant and dance; and Pilipino rondalla music ensembles are but a few of the many hundreds of distinctive forms found in this tremendously diverse and culturally rich state.

Review Criteria

A panel of traditional arts specialists (artists, cultural workers, scholars, organizers, and advocates) will review applications and make recommendations for approval by the ACTA Board of Directors, according to the following criteria:

    • Traditionality of the art form
    • Artistic quality of the master artist’s work
    • Demonstrated commitment and developed skill of the apprentice
    • Shared membership of the master artist and apprentice in a cultural community (family, heritage, occupation, tribe, religion, etc.)
    • Feasibility of the proposed work plan and timetable
    • Urgency (for endangered art forms)

Resources

    • Watch a webinar about applying to the Apprenticeship + Living Cultures funding opportunities.
    • Browse former Apprenticeship master artists.

Funders

The Apprenticeship Program is a program of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Walter & Elise Haas Fundthe William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation. Additional support provided by the California Arts Council, and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles Department of Arts and Culture

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