We provide direct support for master traditional artists living in Arizona to pass on art, culture, and heritage practices to apprentice learners through the annual SFA Master-Apprentice Award. The award is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and Arizona Commission on the Arts.
The award supports a master artist or tradition bearer who has identified a qualified apprentice (or group of apprentices) to engage in a teaching-learning relationship that includes one-on-one mentorship and hands-on experience. Our highest priority is to support apprentices to learn from master artists within their own cultural traditions. Funds can be used to help cover artist fees, offset costs of raw materials, and support any travel essential to the exchange. Traditional artists & culture bearers receive a $5,000; apprentices receive $500.
Artists are first nominated by peers within their community, cultural institutions, apprentices, or by self-nomination. SFA then invite nominees to apply based on their mastery of artform, their ability to describe how that form has been recognized by their cultural community, and their ability to share traditional knowledge. Applicants include a wide variety of artists, including those working in traditions including, but not limited to:
- Handcrafts: weavers; basket makers; jewelers; makers of masks, ritual objects, textiles
- Occupational folklife: adobe makers, leather workers, ironworkers, foodways workers
- Oral traditions: storytellers, poets
- Performing arts: dancers, vocalists, musicians
The 2021 nomination process is now closed.
The 2020 awardees are:
Bryan Castle, Capoeirista
Bryan Castle has been a practitioner of the Brazilian martial artform of capoeira for 22 years, studying throughout North America and Brazil with teachers such as the late Contramestre Dondi “Enxu” in Tucson. Castle now teaches capoeira at Movement Culture, Casa de Cultural, working to preserve the traditional dances and music of Brazil by supporting and honoring aging mentors and nurturing new and emerging artists through both the practice of the artform and cultural exchange between Brazil and the United States. He will work with apprentice, Malik Arceneaux.
Velma Kee Craig, Diné (Navajo) Textile Weaver
Though both of her grandmothers were weavers, Velma Kee Craig came to the artform later in life after they had passed. She was introduced to Barbara Teller Ornelas (2019 SFA Master-Apprentice Artist Awardee) through Barbara’s children and began studying with Barbara and her sister, Lynda Teller Pete, both master Diné weavers in Two Grey Hills tradition. She also studied books written by non-Native authors who learned from renowned Diné weavers and knowledge bearers, Hastiin Klah and Tiana Bighorse. Craig now teaches weaving to Dine students working to rekindle their family’s weaving tradition. She will work with Wayne Parkhurst, a beginning weaver and graphic artist.
Jesus Garcia, Horsehair and Agave Fiber Rope Making
Born and raised in Sonora, Mexico, with ranching and farming parents, Jesus Garcia learned horsehair and agave fiber rope “reata” from his father. He also sought out elders in rural Sonora who still practice the form, buying their work, learning from them, and sometimes bringing some of them across the border to demonstrate their art at folk festivals at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. As an educator of natural and cultural history of the Sonoran Desert, Garcia has shared the artform at festivals and cultural institutions for the past 20 years. He will work with Maegan Lopez of the Tohono O’odham Nation who plans to share the form with O’odham youth.
David Gill, Mariachi Folk Violinist
David Gill grew up in the barrios of Tucson where his mother always encouraged singing and music. He discovered mariachi while playing violin in a church group and went on to study it in school and through the Tucson International Mariachi Conference. He has performed with Tucson groups and Mariachi Sol de Mexico in Los Angeles. He is now an instructor of three youth mariachis groups in Tucson and an adult mariachi group in Phoenix. He will work with one of his students, Rigoberto Ramos, originally from Cocula, Jalisco, known as the birthplace of mariachi music.
Ansel Joseph, Steel Pan Craftsman
Ansel Joseph was born in Trinidad and Tobago, where from a young age he observed the islands’ earliest steel bands. When his older brother started a steel band, Joseph imitated him by making his own pans out of milk and juice cans. He later joined Trinidad’s first all-youth steel band and eventually became a protégé of the legendary steel pan innovator Elliot “Ellie” Mannette. He later took the artform to Canada and the United States, and eventually to Phoenix, where he continues to build and tune pans and share the form with the public. He will work with apprentice, Charlene Lusk, to pass along the art of building, tuning, teaching, arranging, and performing steel pan drums.
Josefina P. Lizarraga, Paper flower maker
Raised in Nayarit, Mexico, amidst rich vegetation and colorful flowers, Josefina Lizarraga learned about local flora and fauna from her mother, grandmothers, and elders. As a child she learned to make paper flowers from an artist in the pueblo of Ruiz and later from a Mexican-Chinese flower maker and dressmaker, who taught her to make paper flowers and to embroider. Lizarraga has been making paper flowers for 78 years and has demonstrated her craft at the annual Tucson Meet Yourself Festival for decades. She will continue working with her apprentice, Jean Ramirez, to share the artform.
Rick Manuel, O’odham Silversmith
Rick Manuel was raised by O’odham basketweavers and farmers and has over 48 years of experience as a silversmith, an artform he learned from teachers and his own experimentation, applying skills he learned in other trades, particularly carpentry. Early on, he studied and imitated Diné (Navajo) jewelers’ styles and designs then turned to O’odham symbols and scenery. One of his collections celebrates the traditions of O’odham women, including traditions such as the harvesting saguaro fruit, carrying burden baskets, making pottery and baskets, and baking bread in an old mud oven. He will work with his son, Jacob Manuel.
Maria del Carmen Parra, Ancestral foodways
Maria del Carmen Parra is a Xicana Indigena with lineages in Texcoco, Mexico, Raramuri from Chihuahua and Izkalotekatl from the Calpoalli Nahuacalco. She “grew up” in the kitchen with her mother, a traditional womb worker and healer, and later attended culinary school looking for a way to help her family heal from diabetes. She soon realized that a plant-based ancestral food diet was the only way to support her community and her own health. She now works to educate her community in Phoenix how to decolonize their diet and use ancestral foods for healing. She will work with her husband, Brian Cano, to deepen his knowledge of ancestral foods and create a garden for education.
Paul Anders Stout, Glass Blower
Paul Anders Stout started glass blowing at 19, when he went to assist the renowned glassblower, Tom Philabaum in his Tucson studio. He later traveled worldwide to study, eventually working for Hyaline Studios in Perth Australia, Hunting Studios in Wisconsin, and Salvadore Studios in Murano, Italy. He now works to connect these traditions to his own Southwest-inspired innovations. He will work with apprentice, Skyler Blood-Raiter, to teach the mixing, melting, and shaping of glass.
Ted Warmbrand, Folk Musician
Ted Warmbrand is a folk musician who embodies the spirit of Pete Seeger, using songs to build community, protest injustice, and bring joy to those around him. Warmbrand grew up in an Ashkenazi Jewish family in New York City, where he learned to sing old country songs from his parents and developed a deep respect for his historical roots. He found a similar respect for heritage across cultures in folk music, which offers people a common sense of belonging. He will work with apprentice, Jay Landon, to share the history of folk music forms and practice song creation and recreation.
**Download the 202o Awardee announcement press release here.