Documenting the shared work of the master and apprentice is an integral part of the Apprenticeship Program. For the past five years, Pat Jarrett, the digital media specialist for the Virginia Folklife Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, has photographed master artists and apprentices working together in their shops, kitchens, living rooms, fields, and studios. His portraits of the graduating apprenticeship teams will be on display at the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase on Sunday, May 15 from 12:00-5:00pm. This free festival at Ash Lawn-Highland celebrates the artistry, musicianship, and culinary craftsmanship of some of Virginia’s finest traditional artists.
A resident of Staunton, Virginia, Pat’s photography has appeared in the New York Times, Bitter Southerner, Virginia Living, and on the National Public Radio website, among other publications. Jarrett had already been documenting work that could not be outsourced or performed by a machine when the Virginia Folklife Program formally hired him to visit everything from guitar shops and powwows to fiddlers’ conventions and moonshine stills to photograph apprenticeships.
“Besides creating beautiful images, Pat consistently makes photographs that seem to effectively get right to the heart of the apprenticeships,” says Virginia Folklife Program Director Jon Lohman. “Our apprenticeships are as much about the mentor-student relationships as they are about the art,” Lohman continues. “And Pat just has an incredible knack for articulating this, often by capturing the most subtle of gestures.”
Portraits of the masters and apprentices have been combined into an exhibition that has traveled the state, with past appearances at the Bridge PAI in Charlottesville, WMRA studios in Harrisonburg, the Floyd Country Store in Floyd, the Chestnut Creek School of the arts in Galax, and the Richmond Folk Festival.
Since 2002, the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program has paired more than one hundred teams of master artists with apprentices to teach the “arts of everyday life.” The traditions the Folklife Program has focused on come from all forms of Virginia’s expressive culture, from instrument making to gospel singing, from decoy carving to Brunswick stew making, from square dance calling to hotrod car making. Passing the traditions on from master to apprentice helps keep the traditions alive, reinvigorate master practitioners, and inspire new generations of learners.