The Vermont Folklife Center Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program was initiated twenty years ago to support Vermont's living cultural legacy. The traditional or folk arts historically have been passed from generation to generation without the support of classes or public institutions. They were carried on because they had meaning in people's lives. But in a changing world the link between generations can be broken and time-honored knowledge can be lost.
A traditional arts apprenticeship offers support to bring together teachers and learners who share a common commitment to keeping these art forms alive. It pairs a master artist who is recognized as having achieved a high level of expertise in his or her art form with a less-experienced apprentice. The master and apprentice jointly plan when, where, and what they expect to accomplish during the course of the apprenticeship.
Across twenty years of the program we have supported 182 apprenticeships representing a broad spectrum expressive culture—from the arts of native Abenaki and of English, French, and Irish immigrants, to the arts of Lao, Somali Bantu, Congolese, Bosnian, Tibetan and Meshketian refugees. These art forms reflect the cultural history, values, and aesthetics of the group that practices them. They often play an important role in the lives of both the artist and the artist's cultural community.