Folk and Traditional Arts are defined as artistic traditions that are characteristic of specific ethnic, religious, linguistic, occupational, or regional groups. The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) has a Folk & Traditional Arts program that is administered in a total of 33 counties. The goal of the program is to investigate, document, present, sustain, and promote the folk and traditional arts of Pennsylvanians, celebrating the Commonwealth's diverse heritage.
Northwestern Pennsylvania has a rich array of traditional artists. Some of them were born here while others resettled here as refugees. Many of the region's traditional artists are hidden in plain sight because their art form was never meant for a formal stage or an exhibition space. Instead, their art form is often shared as part of a community ritual.
From 2003-2018, the PCA Folk Art Partner for the region, serving Erie, Crawford, and Warren Counties, was the Erie Art Museum. Kelly Armor, a folklorist and staff member at the museum, was responsible for overseeing the administration of the program. In 2018, the Erie Art Museum and the PCA agreed to transfer the program to Erie Arts & Culture. Kelly now works through Erie Arts & Culture to identify traditional artists in the region, assist those artists in keeping their traditions vital, and create broader community access to folk arts through presentations, performances, workshops, and other programs.
Folk and traditional arts are shaped and shared within families, neighborhoods, and communities. They are passed down from one generation to another and learned through participation in community-based activities. People typically learn folk art through observation or apprenticeships with elders, rather than in an academic setting through classes, books, or institutional instruction.
Apprenticeships are grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) that support the learning of folk and traditional arts. Each grant award provides funding over a one-year period to a partnership between a master artist and a qualified apprentice, enabling them to work together for in-depth learning that encompasses the acquisition of techniques and artistry as well as the context of the culture. Apprenticeships are offered annually in both performing and craft traditions. The program makes awards of up to $4,000. Apprenticeships may receive a maximum of four grant awards. For additional details, please download the full application and guidelines below.
If you have a question about the Folk and Traditional Arts Program, please contact Kelly Armor at Kelly@erieartsandculture.org or at 814-452-3427.