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Folk & Traditional Arts

Folk & Traditional Arts

Celebrating Traditional Arts: Maryland Folklife

Diverse forms of traditional culture - or what we call Folklife - endow Maryland with a truly distinctive sense of place.

Beyond providing identity to our communities, Folklife also is a vehicle by which communities gather to link past and future. Folklife is dynamic, ever-changing and always growing to encompass newcomers or react to new circumstances.

The Maryland Folklife program documents promote and sustains living traditions through Maryland Traditions, its statewide partnership initiative, as well as Apprenticeship and Project grants and the annual Maryland Traditions Heritage Awards and Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival.

Maryland Traditions is the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council. We’re a team of folklorists, spread across the state, working to document, promote and sustain traditional arts and culture. Our partners include the Coastal Heritage Alliance (Chesapeake Tidewater), Frostburg State University (Mountain Maryland), the National Council for the Traditional Arts (Metro DC and Statewide), University of Maryland, Baltimore County (Metro Baltimore and Statewide), Sandy Spring Museum (Montgomery County), and the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art (Lower Eastern Shore). Together, we strive to learn from cultural communities and to work with them through grant programs and public events as a means of safeguarding this living cultural heritage.

Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship Award

Offered annually, the Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship Award funds a year-long period of study between a master and apprentice artist in the folk and traditional arts. These awards support the passing down of cultural knowledge in a wide range of living traditions. Past Apprenticeship Award recipients include performers of Korean drumming and Appalachian old time music, as well as practitioners of Chinese calligraphy and Norwegian rosemåling. Browse the lists of past recipients here.

The Maryland Folklife Festival serves as a showcase for Apprenticeship Award recipients. As part of their award, apprenticeship teams are invited to perform at the festival, which is hosted in early summer. For a fuller description of the Apprenticeship Award, including information on how to apply, click here.

Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival

Once a year, Maryland Traditions hosts the free, day-long Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival that celebrates and showcases the artists, programs, and collaborations of the Maryland Folklife program. 

The Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival supports living traditions, or what we call folklife. Folklife is knowledge handed down from one generation to another through word of mouth or example. It may be verbal, musical or visual, occupational or religious. It may be Indigenous or have found a welcoming home in Maryland in recent years. Folklife strengthens cultural identity and senses of place, providing ways to gather together for linking the past, present, and future. Folklife comprises cultural practices, expressions and beliefs that are dynamic and ever-changing, responding to new situations and contexts, and expanding to make room for newcomers all the time.


Maryland Traditions Heritage Awards

Each year, the Maryland Traditions Heritage Awards are presented to a Maryland Person, Place, and Tradition that epitomize Maryland's cultural heritage.

Maryland Traditions Grants

Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship Grants support collaboration between a master artist and his or her student. Through these grants, precious skills and knowledge of traditional art forms are passed from one generation to the next. Maryland organizations are eligible to apply for a Maryland Traditions Project Grant to support research and programming that safeguards or enriches the heritage of Maryland Communities.

If you have any questions about Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship and/or Project Grants, please email, or call (410) 767-6450.

Maryland Traditions Partnerships

Maryland Traditions extends its reach statewide through partnerships with six dynamic organizations:

Chesapeake Bay Maritime MuseumFrostberg State UniversityNational Council for Traditional Arts WARD MUSUEM OF WILDFOWL ART

Maryland Winners of the NEA National Heritage Fellowship

The National Heritage Fellowship, given annually by the National Endowment for the Arts, is the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Recipients are selected through a public nomination process and honored based on their artistic excellence and contributions to folk and traditional arts in the United States.

Seventeen awards have been given in Maryland since the first class of recipients were honored in 1982. Read more about them here.