Published May 19, 2022

In 2021, the Virginia Folklife Program began a three-year partnership with the Mid Atlantic Arts project Central Appalachia Living Traditions, or CALT. CALT promotes the understanding and recognition of folk arts and culture in the Appalachian counties of Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia through a three-part program that invests in folk arts communities while seeding new folk and traditional arts experiences and honoring under-recognized practitioners of traditions across the region. The Appalachian Regional Commission denotes 25 counties and independent cities in Virginia as Appalachian.

Logo designed by Thomas, West Virginia-based designer Jen Iskow. 

Together with the two other folklife programs in the region—the Ohio Arts Council and the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council—Virginia Folklife will collaborate with CALT to increase the sharing of knowledge and resources across the Appalachian region. Over the course of the next year, the Folklife Program will do new fieldwork in Appalachian Virginia, in an effort to understand the needs and opportunities for the artists that call these communities home.

The CALT program will also focus on three anchor communities during the next two years in order to deeply understand what kinds of new funding infrastructures will have a dramatic impact on sustaining traditional practice and cultural knowledge. The CALT approach was informed by a year-long survey and planning initiative, with findings available in an executive summary.

The anchor community for Virginia is Bristol, designated the birthplace of country music by Congress, and host to the legendary 1927 Bristol Sessions, the first time legends like the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers were recorded. Music still defines the city today, which is home to the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival and—on the TN side of this two-state city—the NASCAR Bristol Motor Speedway. Accordingly, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is a key partner for this Bristol initiative. To kick-off the second year of our collaboration with CALT, the Virginia Folklife Program is hosting its first in-person event at the museum since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Besides providing the first recordings of two country music pioneers, the session featured a fascinating cross section of mountain music, including rare glimpses of Appalachian blues styles and Holiness religious music.”

Keep reading in the Encyclopedia Virginia entry, The Bristol Sessions (1927)

Join us at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum on Wednesday, June 15, at 5:30pm for the premiere of our Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Film. This feature-length documentary introduces the artists in the 2021-2022 apprenticeship class in the spaces where they create—the bakery, the workshop, the family room. Following the film screening there will be discussion (and a little music) from participating mentor-apprentice artists, including: Walter “Skip” Herman and KT Vandyke, Emily Spencer and Lisa Ring, Chris Testerman, Sophia Burnett and Karlie Keepfer, Eddie Bond and Andrew Small, Mac Traynham and Ashlee Watkins.

Get Involved

If you’re interested in learning more about CALT, contact Mid Atlantic Arts Program Officer for the Folk and Traditional Arts, Emily Hilliard at

Recommend a traditional artist in a Virginia Appalachian county or city (see list on right)! Email

Mid Atlantic Folk Arts Funding

Mid Atlantic Arts’ Folk and Traditional Arts Community Projects grants fund projects designed to support the vitality of traditional arts and cultural communities in the mid-Atlantic region. Non-profit organizations in DC, DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA, VA, USVI or WV which seek to engage folk and traditional artists, practitioners, or culture bearers in community-based projects are eligible for funding in amounts from $1,000 to $7,000. Deadline: June 15. More information.


Learning Experience

Virginia History in Song

What can songs teach us about history?