Published May 13, 2021
Lemlem Gebray will be apprenticing her twin daughters Akeza and Datta in the art of Ethiopian coffee ceremonies.
Pat Jarrett/Virginia Humanities
Lemlem Gebray will be apprenticing her twin daughters Akeza and Datta in the art of Ethiopian coffee ceremonies.
Pat Jarrett/Virginia Humanities

The Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Humanities is proud to announce the 2021-2022 class of master artists and apprentices. This year’s class of eight master and apprenticeship teams spans the Commonwealth from Virginia Beach’s ocean-side to the grassy shores of the Rivanna river; from Brazilian traditions recently brought here by new Virginians to centuries-old songs taught the same way here for generations.

“These masters and apprentices contribute so much to who we are as Virginians and we are very excited to see their creations,” said interim director of the Virginia Folklife Program, Pat Jarrett. “After taking a hiatus from the Apprenticeship Program entirely last year, we’re thrilled to reinstate the program with some slight changes for safety.”

One of the most visible changes is that the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase which normally takes place in May, has been postponed. Because safety cannot be guaranteed at the festival that has brought together the graduating class of apprentice pairs with the new pairs since the start of the program in 2002, the Virginia Folklife Program team is working on alternative ways to recognize the apprenticeship teams, including production of a short film exploring our 2021-22 apprenticeship class. 

 

Hannah, left and her father Horace Scruggs will be navigating the waterways and black histories on the rivers of central Virginia.
Hannah, left and her father Horace Scruggs will be navigating the waterways and black histories on the rivers of central Virginia.
Photos courtesy of the Scruggs family.

The 2021-22 Master Folk Artists and their Apprentices:

  • NEA National Heritage Fellow Eddie Bond will be developing Grayson- and Carroll-County style fiddle with apprentice Andrew Small.
  • Lelis Olaes will apprentice her son, Ken Garcia Olaes, in traditional Filipino baking practices in Virginia Beach. 
  • Master instrument repairman Walter “Skip” Herman will be apprenticing KT Vandyke at Frog Level Guitars in Abingdon. 
  • Returning master artist Mac Traynham of Floyd County will apprentice Ashlee Watkins on old time rhythm guitar. Traynham previously apprenticed Robert Browder in banjo making in 2010. 
  • Lemlem Gebray will be apprenticing her twin daughters Akeza and Datta Seyoum in the tradition of Ethiopian Coffee Ceremonies in Richmond. 
  • Returning artist Chris Testerman of Independence is apprenticing Sophia Burnett and Karlie Keepfer in the tradition of instrument making. Chris apprenticed under Walter Messick in 2013.
  • Master outdoorsman Horace Scruggs will be exploring the history and navigation techniques of the waterways of Fluvanna County with his daughter Hannah Scruggs
  • Master of Brazilian Capoeira Yara Corderiro is apprenticing Ruthie Lezama of Reston. 

VIRGINIA FOLKLIFE APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM

Returning artist Mac Traynham and apprentice Ashlee Watkins.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

Now in its nineteenth year, the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program has drawn from a wide range of communities and traditional folkways to pair more than 120 experienced master artists with dedicated apprentices for one-on-one, nine-month learning experiences, in order to help ensure that particular art forms are passed on in ways that are conscious of history and faithful to tradition. The master artists are selected from applicants in all forms of traditional, expressive culture in Virginia—from decoy carving to fiddle making, from boat building to quilt making, from country ham curing to old-time banjo playing, from African American gospel singing to Mexican folk dancing. The Folklife Apprenticeship Program helps to ensure that Virginia’s treasured folkways continue to receive new life and vibrancy, engage new learners, and reinvigorate master practitioners.

VIRGINIA FOLKLIFE PROGRAM

The Virginia Folklife Program, a program of Virginia Humanities, is the state center for the documentation, presentation, celebration, and support of Virginia’s rich cultural heritage. Whether sung or told, hand-crafted or performed, Virginia’s rich folklife refers to those “arts of everyday life” that reflect a sense of traditional knowledge and connection to community. Visit VirginiaFolklife.org for more information.

VIRGINIA HUMANITIES

Virginia Humanities is the state humanities council. We aim to tell the stories of all Virginians—or, better yet, find ways for people to tell their own stories. We want Virginians to connect with their history and culture and, in doing that, we hope we’ll all get to know each other a little better. Virginia Humanities is headquartered in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia but our work covers the Commonwealth. Founded in 1974, we are one of fifty-six humanities councils created by Congress with money and support from the National Endowment for the Humanities to make the humanities available to all Americans. To learn more visit VirginiaHumanities.org.

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