To support the learning of living cultural heritage, the Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program (CCHAP) announces its 2019-2020 grant recipients. In CCHAP’s Southern New England Apprenticeship Program for traditional arts, awards ranging between $2000 and $3000 are given to mentor artists who work intensively over a 7-month period to teach their expertise to student apprentices. Sustaining these cultural expressions is important work with and for communities, and they can include cultural art forms, craft, and traditional trades.
The Southern New England Apprenticeship Program is unique among apprenticeship programs in folk and traditional arts because it brings together mentors and apprentices across state lines, intending where possible to develop regional connections between Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, which share many ethnic and work communities. The grants also encourage the work by apprentice teams to be demonstrated publicly at local and regional festivals, arts activities, and events.
This year’s grant awardees are:
Mentor Kasha Breau (Marlborough, CT) will teach Finnish kantele to apprentices Stéfan Gíslason (Providence, RI) and Rita Kelley (Canterbury, CT). Breau has played kantele for many years, including special performances accompanying the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic.
Mentor Dhimitraq Demiri (Worcester, MA) will teach Albanian dance to the youth ensemble of the Albanian American Muslim Community (Waterbury, CT), coordinated by Albana Lame. Demiri is an accomplished dancer and dance instructor, and plans to teach dances to the ensemble from several different regions of Albania.
Mentor Jerry Bryant (Amherst, MA) will teach traditional New England sea chanteys to apprentices Benedict Louis Gagliardi III and Armand Aromin (Providence, RI). Bryant is a regular performer at Mystic Seaport and teaches chantey workshops around the country; his instruction will include deep dives on the maritime history and context of the music.
Mentor Mary King (Smithfield, RI) will teach Celtic harp to apprentice Ellen Sheil (North Truro, MA). King has presented the music and culture of Ireland around New England for many years, and she shares her knowledge of playing the harp in a traditional style—by ear and by singing exercises that translate into tunes.
Mentor Roberto Cepeda (New Britain, CT) will teach Puerto Rican bomba drumming and dance to apprentice Rafael Febus (Bridgeport, CT). Cepeda is recognized as one of the top bomba performers in the United States, and has many decades of mentoring students in this Afro Puerto Rican music and dance tradition.
Mentor Walter D. Sweet (Enfield, CT) will teach apprentice Michael Vidal (New Haven, CT) the craft of making wooden flutes. Sweet specializes in making six-key Irish flutes, as well as drumcorps fifes, pennywhistles, and tabor pipes.
This year marks the 22nd consecutive year for the Southern New England Apprenticeship Program. The apprenticeship program is managed in collaboration with the Folk Arts Program at the Mass Cultural Council and independent folklorist Winifred Lambrecht from Rhode Island. The Southern New England Apprenticeship Program is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. To learn more about these traditional arts apprenticeships and how to apply, visit https://chs.org/apprenticeship.