Published February 22, 2023

A collective of local culture workers spearheaded by the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is thrilled to announce new opportunities for folk and traditional artists and new support for cultural traditions in the greater Bristol region (Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee) thanks to Central Appalachia Living Traditions (CALT), an initiative of Mid Atlantic Arts.

Central Appalachia Living Traditions 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. 

In 2021, Bristol was identified as the CALT anchor community for Virginia, and in 2022 Mid Atlantic Arts worked with the Birthplace of Country Music Museum to invite 13 independent artists and representatives from cultural organizations to collaboratively design a $75,000 investment to support folk arts and culture in the region. 

The Appalachian African American Cultural Center in Pennington Gap is an example of the smaller, largely volunteer-run organizations this grant opportunity is designed to support. Photo by Pat Jarrett / Virginia Humanities.

The members of the Greater Bristol Folk Arts & Culture Team include the Birthplace of Country Music, Arts Alliance Mountain Empire, Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, Virginia Folklife Program of Virginia Humanities, Appalachian Sustainable Development, Create Appalachia, Center for Cultural Vibrancy, Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts, William King Museum of Art and musicians Geonoah Davis and Tyler Hughes.

Representatives articulated a shared goal: “to promote and support folk arts and culture in the greater Bristol community by providing targeted resources and support to area organizations, artists, and artist collectives with the goal of dramatically impacting the sustainability and awareness of traditional practice, cultural knowledge, and improving economic development and regional vitality.” The team designed a one-year grant program in support of this goal, which will redistribute the majority of the $75,000 directly to artists and under-resourced community organizations.

Regional artists working in traditional or folk arts and culture are now invited to apply for a Tradition Bearer Fellowship. This fellowship consists of a $4,000 award and a variety of opt-in professional development opportunities. Fellows will have access to support services such as website development and professional headshots, and will be connected to local resources.  Applications are being accepted on the Birthplace of Country Music website through April 14. 

The Greater Bristol Folk Arts and Culture Team is also inviting 3–5 area nonprofits to apply for a Cultural Caretaker Grant. This one-time, $5,000 grant opportunity is designed for small-scale, limited capacity, and largely volunteer-run organizations that have difficulty accessing typical sources of public and private funding. 

Both funding opportunities are limited to individuals or organizations located in one of twenty-two Appalachian counties or cities (as defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission) surrounding Bristol in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee. 

Eligible Counties: 

  • Southwest Virginia Cities & Counties: Bland, Bristol, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Galax, Grayson, Lee, Norton, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, Wythe
  • Northeast Tennessee Counties: Sullivan, Washington, Carter, Johnson, Hawkins, Unicoi

Greater Bristol Folk Arts & Culture Team: 

The team works with Emily Hilliard, Mid Atlantic Arts Program Director, Folk and Traditional Arts, as an advisor.