Program Story: Supporting emerging artists in Central Appalachia

Culturally significant arts and crafts that make life possible, bearable, and beautiful in nettlesome circumstances can become lost over time without ways to pass down traditional processes. Tradition bearers invest their time and energy in exploring and contributing to their artistic craft and cultural ways, and through artistic practice, they master over time the processes for creating their art.

South Arts is a regional arts organization located in Atlanta, Georgia (and current grantee partner with the Folk Arts & Cultures program in Central Appalachia) that works to develop artists in the southern United States who enrich life in their communities.

One new initiative is In These Mountains: Central Appalachian Folk Arts & Culture – 2021 Emerging Traditional Artists Program (ETAP). Beginning virtually in Q4 of 2021 and alternating with in-person sessions twice a year for three years, ETAP brings a cohort of 24 traditional artists aged 18 to 35 together from across the Appalachian region to grow in their skill and build relationships within their community.

Participating artists in ETAP receive funding to learn and grow in their craft as well as promote their work. The award has few restrictions, not requiring artists to submit a final report, produce a commissioned work, or engage in any public program. They can select their own opportunities for learning and have access to South Arts staff for help as desired. Their mediums vary from foodways (a people’s practices of producing, eating, and sharing food) like seed saving, to music, like singing or fiddling, basketry and weaving, pottery, writing, storytelling or spoken word, raps, and others.

“The most important thing for me to achieve artistically is to fit into this familial and cultural tradition of storytelling, this lineage of artists ensuring the voices of our ancestors and the world we work to build are widely heard and cherished.” – Malcolm Davis, Music, Paint Lick, Kentucky Emerging Traditional Artist supported by South Arts’ “In These Mountains” program.

“My hopes for the future are to become a respectful and knowledgeable community herbalist. Ultimately, my dream is to carry on herbal traditions and inspire others through living a life well lived, in deep relationship with the plants, and in service to my community.” – Bonnie Lenneman, Foodways, Brasstown, North Carolina Emerging Traditional Artist supported by South Arts’ “In These Mountains” program.