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Consultancy and Professional Development Program

AFS has received funding from the NEA Folk and Traditional Arts Program to continue this program, and we will accept applications on a rolling basis while funding remains.

The Folk and Traditional Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts has provided funding to the AFS to continue our Consultancy and Professional Development Program through May 2020.

This program provides contracts for consultancies and professional development opportunities that—in addition to any other outcomes—will create case studies of issues, challenges, organizations, or events in the folk and traditional arts field, or descriptions of best practices in some area of folk and traditional arts work, that AFS will share here. (Links to the reports submitted in past years of the program are below these guidelines.)

Although the consultancy part of this program will continue to support activities in all areas of the folk and traditional arts field, in 2019–20 we are giving particular priority to consultancies focused on matters of organizational sustainability, including audience development, fund-raising and donor development, marketing, leadership and succession, partnership-building, strategic planning, and the like.

Copies of the best-practice and case-study reports submitted during 2016-2018 can be requested by emailing [email protected].

This program supports two kinds of activities:

1. Short-term consultancies by experts who work with an organization in the field to create case studies, or to identify and articulate best practices, in such areas as archiving, concert or festival production, fundraising, exhibition or publication design, field documentation, marketing and publicity, media production, or organizational development and management, among others. AFS will support up to $3,000 for the fees and travel associated with a consultancy. AFS will post consultants’ case-study or best-practice reports on its web site as a resource to the folk and traditional arts field.

Requests for this support must come to AFS from the prospective consultant. AFS will issue contracts, and provide fee and travel reimbursement payments, directly to those consultants. As part of the final report for each consultancy, the organizations that work with consultants must provide written documentation to AFS of the in-kind value of their staff or board members’ time that was devoted to work with the consultant.

2. Professional development opportunities for the staffs of folk and traditional arts non-profit organizations and government agencies, and for independent contractors engaged in folk and traditional arts work, who may travel to visit other organizations or participate in events that will help them acquire best-practice or case-study information about some aspect of their folk arts work. Videoconferencing is also possible.

AFS will support up to $2,000 for the travel and related costs associated with professional development opportunities. AFS will post the case-study or best-practice reports prepared by those undertaking professional development work on its web site as a resource to the folk and traditional arts field. As part of the final report for each professional development opportunity, the participant must provide written documentation to AFS of the in-kind value of her/his time that was devoted to the opportunity.

What We Do Not Fund: This program does not provide grants, support arts projects, or provide support for indirect costs. It also does not support professional development requests from students, or requests for travel to the AFS annual meeting. A single individual may receive only one contract (as a consultant or as a recipient of professional development support) per year, and a single organization may receive only one consultancy per year.

We will offer this support on a first-come, first-served basis from June 18, 2018 until May 31, 2019, or until funds have been fully expended, whichever comes first. If the first seven years of this program have been any indication, funds will have been spent well before the grant period ends, so if the consultancy or professional development activities you want to undertake will take place later in this period, please remember to apply for AFS support well in advance.

We generally will be able to review and make decisions on requests within 2 weeks of receiving them. We will pay out contract funds within 4 weeks of the date when we receive written case-study or best-practice reports, and financial reports, from the consultancy (and for consultancies, as mentioned above, we will also require written in-kind documentation) or professional development activity.

We encourage you to contact AFS Executive Director Jessica Turner to discuss your plans before applying. To apply, email a PDF with the following information to the same address:


1. Evidence of your relevant qualifications as a consultant

2. A summary of the mission, and the folk arts activities of the organization you want to work with
3. A description of the purpose and impact of, and a plan of work for, the consultancy, including the case-study or best-practice report you will provide

4. A budget for the project, and a brief description of what changes you would make to the project if we cannot fully fund your request (allowable costs include those for consultant fees, transportation, lodging, and meals)

Professional Development

1. A brief summary of your professional work in folk arts

2. A description of the professional growth opportunities this travel will enable you to undertake, and of the case-study or best-practice information you plan to gain and share with the field

3. A budget for the project, and a brief description of what changes you would make to the project if we cannot fully fund your request (allowable costs include those for transportation, lodging, meals, meeting or conference registration, and videoconferencing)

Past Case-Study and Best-Practice Reports


report from the Ohio State University Center for Folklore Studies on assessing the present state of an archival collection and making recommendations concerning future space and conditions for these collections that meet  present-day archival standards

report from the Institute for Community Research on methods of downloading, storing, rendering, converting, organizing, inventorying, and editing video ethnographic documentary materials

report by Catherine Hiebert Kerst of the American Folklife Center on findings from the September 2013 international symposium “Cultural Heritage Archives: Networks, Innovation & Collaboration”

Josephine McRobbie’s “Applicable Models for Audiovisual Archives and Collections: Engagement with Indigenous Communities and Archival Materials”

case study prepared by Riley McLaughlin of VillageMediaWorks on the development of an online application that allows for the selection and playing of a specific group of archival audio and video recordings

Andy Kolovos on preserving ethnographic research materials

Conference Reports

report from Michelle Stefano on the Association of Critical Heritage Studies 2014 conference

report from Robert Baron on the 2013 conference of the Société Internationale d’Ethnologie et de Folklore, and on European heritage studies today

report from Michelle Stefano on the Association of Critical Heritage Studies 2012 conference

Fieldwork, Documentation, and Media Production

A report from Georgia Wier and John Bishop on preparing video materials for archival deposit

guide to field recording and audio mixing by radio producer Rachel Hopkin

“Planning and Completing Immersive Language Study: Recommendations for Folklorists Based on Work in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala,” by independent folklorist Joseph O’Connell

primer for folklore videographers prepared by Jon Ching, consultant to the Alliance for California Traditional Arts

primer on audio production for radio by Taki Telonidis of the Western Folklife Center’s media office

report from Ruth Olson of the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures at the University of Wisconsin on Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling (ARIS) as an emerging technology for mobile devices

Georgia Wier on photographing folk art and artists

Folklore and Education

report from the Folk Arts and Cultural Traditions Charter School articulating best practices for a model whole-school residency that integrates folk arts across all grades and content areas

report from Global Student Achievement exploring best practices in folklore to expand the understanding of culture among district and charter schools that have a conservative approach to the concept of school culture

Recommendations for local-culture pedagogy programs based on a summer 2014 meeting of Wisconsin local-culture educators

report from a Philadelphia Folklore Project-sponsored workshop on best practices for integrating folk arts and social change teaching 

guide prepared by Paddy Bowman, director of Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education, for folklorists wanting to incorporate K-12 education activities into their work

report by Jan Rosenberg of Heritage Education Resources on using folklore as a means to meeting K–12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curriculum standards


report from a working meeting of Preserving America’s Cultural Traditions (PACT) to assess and implement strategies found in the 2013 PACT “Leadership, Succession, and Transition Planning” report [listed below in this section]

report by Carole Boughter on transition and succession planning for non-profits

report by Selina Morales, Mal O’Connor, and Sally Van de Water of Preserving America’s Cultural Traditions (PACT) from two AFS 2012 workshops on leadership, transition, and succession in public sector folklore

Organizational Development, Strategic Planning, and Sustainability

A report from Eileen Condon on democratizing the folk arts workplace

A report from the Vermont Folklife Center on developing a new internal operating structure

A report from Melanie Beene and Robert Baron on visioning a new state folklife program

A report from the Vermont Folklife Center on redeveloping its website

A report from Arkansas State University on museum education and public folklore

report from the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University on a series of professional development discussions of the Mathers Museum, Traditional Arts Indiana, and the Michigan State University Museum on folklore, museums, and public folklore programs 

report from the Philadelphia Folklore Project on planning and facilitating Board retreats to carefully tend to a new  staff and team

report from the May 2015 gathering of the Association of Western States Folklorists

report by Brent Björkman and Lilli Tichinin of the Kentucky Folklife Program at Western Kentucky University on an April 2014 meeting of university-based public folklore programs

report by Gregory Hansen of Arkansas State University on best practices in a heritage studies program

State Folk Arts Programs: Achievements, Challenges, Needs,” a report from a gathering of 14 state folk arts program directors and consultants (and a pre-meeting survey of a larger number of state program directors) supported by this AFS program, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, and the Folk and Traditional Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts

report by Jill Breit on best practices for facility ownership

report on the Executive Board’s October 2012 meeting with academic and public programs in folklore

report by Liz Vibber of the Catalyst Center for Nonprofit Management on creating a nonprofit financial business model

report by Red Sage Communications on changing communications to create strategies for organizational sustainability

A report from Barry Cohen on strategic planning for folklore organizations

A report from Betsy Peterson on strategic planning

A report from Mike Luster and Rachel Reynolds Luster on cultural sustainability

report from Mike Luster and Rachel Reynolds Luster on a second workshop on cultural sustainability

report by Mike Luster on a third cultural sustainability retreat

A report from Mike and Rachel Reynolds Luster on a fourth cultural sustainability retreat

Public Folklore Programming and Program Development

A report from Jeanne Harrah Johnson on studying urban vernacular architecture

A report from Maureen Porter on the Peru program of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

A report from Robert Forloney on the US folklife infrastructure in 2015-2016

A report from Anne Huang on institutional fundraising

A report from Gabrielle Berlinger, Kay Turner, and Ellen McHale on preserving vernacular architecture in New York

A report from Esailama Artry-Diouf on African dance in America

report from papermaker Aimee Lee (Ohio): investigating best practices among Japanese papermaking studios that American studios can follow to find, train, and retain future papermakers

report from Behold! New Lebanon on documenting, studying and interpreting the traditions and innovations on traditions developed for guides at an open-air museum

Suzy Thompson’s recommendations for putting on old-time string band contests.

Jens Lund’s recommendations on how to use the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission’s Folk and Traditional Arts Program as a model for creating a similar program in Utah.

report by Lisa Overholser, Ellen McHale, Laura Marcus Green, and Amy Skillman on building an arts and culture support network for newcomer artists

joint report by museum consultant Kathleen McLean and folklorist Suzanne Seriff on museum exhibit prototyping

report by Brendan Greaves on folk festival planning for the 21st century

report by independent folklorists Amy Skillman and Laura Marcus Green from the Western Kentucky University “Arts of Community” workshop they led, which focused on finding ways for arts and cultural organizations to collaborate with social service providers

Fred Fussell on preserving and interpreting folk art environments

Andrea Graham, Annie Hatch, and Elaine Thatcher on folk festival planning

Ellen McHale, Lisa Overholser, and Daniel Franklin Ward on cultural tourism

Millie Rahn on presenting foodways in a folk festival setting

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