Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program

​​​​​​​​​​​Folk Arts Apprenticeships are designed to strengthen and preserve Wisconsin's diverse cultural traditions by supporting direct passage of knowledge and skills embedded in traditional arts. Skilled and experienced folk or traditional artists teach committed and talented apprentices of their choosing. The instructing artist should be locally or regionally respected in a traditional art form important to a cultural community in Wisconsin.

Any forms of traditional art - from basketry to old time music, from beadwork and embroidery to ethnic dance and singing, from instrument building to traditional foodways - as carried on by members of Wisconsin's various cultural groups, are eligible. These cultural groups are communities that emerge from shared ethnicity, language, religion, occupation, recreational pursuit, or geographic region. Priority will be given to instruction in art forms that are in danger of being lost or that help to preserve an endangered language. Both the instructing artist and apprentice should be committed to preserving and advancing the art form.

Grant Amounts

Maximum awards are $3,500 to the instructing artist or a fiscal receiver*. Successful applicants may use the apprenticeship award to help cover the costs of the instructing artist’s fee, the supplies and materials needed during the apprenticeship, and in some cases, travel expenses.


Apprenticeships must involve traditional folk arts* that occur in a Wisconsin community* where they have value and a traditional place. See a list of past and current awardees for examples of such art forms.

Instructing artists should be held in high regard by their peers for their skill, knowledge, and cultural practice. Apprentices should have some experience in the proposed or related art form, display motivation to learn deeply about the art, and care about its perpetuation in the community. Apprentices cannot be immediate family members under the age of 18. If the nature of the folk art allows, more than one apprentice may work with the same instructing artist at one time.

Returning applicants are not eligible to apply if they have received an ap​prenticeship award for three consecutive years; they may reapply after waiting one year. First time applicants should have a conversation with WAB staff to discuss eligibility prior to applying. Contact: Kaitlyn Berle, Folk Arts Specialist, 608-266-8106.

To be eligible, all applications must be submitted by the next deadline, March, 2021. Submit the electronic application, then print the PDF of the application, obtain all needed signatures, and mail for a postmark no later than the required deadline. See the guidelines for details.​

Evaluation Criteria
Priority is given to apprenticeships that will help ensure the continuation of a traditional folk art in the community where it has value and a traditional place.

Applications to the Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  1. ​traditionality of the art form,
  2. artistic quality of the instructing artist’s work,
  3. demonstrated commitment and skill of the apprentice,
  4. shared membership of the instructing artist and apprentice in a cultural community, and
  5. feasibility of the proposed work plan.
In addition, priority is given to instruction in art forms that are in danger of being lost or that help to preserve an endangered language.

Application Process
The instructing artist is the applicant. To access the application, applicants must register and log-in to WAB's new Online Application System. The application will ask questions about the instructing artist, the apprentice artist(s), the art form, its connection to a cultural community, and the work plan. You will also be asked about your ideas for a final public presentation of the art created during the apprenticeship, a requirement of the program. You will also be asked to provide a budget for how you will spend the $3,500.

Along with the application, you will need to send work samples to WAB. This is supporting material that gives evidence of the master artist’s and apprentice's skills. The application and work samples must be submitted by the application postmark deadline. Detailed information about the work sample are in the guidelines and application form.

A folk arts review panel will convene to evaluate the applications and make funding recommendations. Anyone is allowed to attend these meetings as a silent observer. The panel’s recommendations will be reviewed by the Wisconsin Arts Board at its May meeting. WAB staff will notify applicants as to how their application fared following the board meeting.

Apprenticeship Process
Awards will be distributed to the instructing artist in two payments: $2,500 at the start of the apprenticeship and the remaining amount after the public project has been completed and the final report has been accepted by WAB. All funds go to the instructing artist. For the current fiscal year (FY20), the apprenticeship and public presentation can occur during the period July 1, 2020 - May 31, 2021. The final report is due thirty days later, on June 30, 2021.

​During the apprenticeship, a WAB folklorist will visit the apprenticeship to meet the artists, observe the instruction, and document the apprenticeship with photographs. The instructing artist and apprentice also will be asked to document the apprenticeship through photos, a diary, or other means.

Resources for Applicants​​

Defined Terms:​​
*Community - Communities can be geographic places or groups with shared ethnicity, language, religion occupation, recreational pursuits, or regional affinities.

*Fiscal receiver - An artist who works closely with a community agency may wish to have that agency serve as a fiscal  receiver for the award. An incorporated, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that provides administrative and financial services to the instructing artist for the apprenticeship is a fiscal receiver.

*Traditional folk arts - These are artistic practices that express a shared aesthetic, heritage or tradition of a community. The art form might be folk, traditional or classically ethnic. It will have endured through several generations with creative innovations by skilled masters throughout its history. It may have been revived after a cultural break due to the efforts of a committed artist.​​

Resources for Grant Recipients