Reports from the Professional Development Project

The Folk and Traditional Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts provided funding through May 2020 to the AFS to administer a Consultancy and Professional Development Program; projects will continue to be approved as long as funds remain.

This program provides contracts for consultancies and professional development opportunities that—in addition to any other outcomes—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 shares here. (Links to the reports submitted in past years of the program are below these guidelines.)

Although the consultancy part of this program supports activities in all areas of the folk and traditional arts field, particular priority is given 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.

Here are links to the best-practice and case-study reports submitted during 2016-2018. Please see below on the page for reports from earlier years of this project.

Consultancy and Professional Development Program

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 until funds have been fully expended.

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 ([email protected]) 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

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

  • 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

Public Folklore Programming and Program Development

  • 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

Despite our best efforts, we do sometimes make mistakes and are happy to correct any errors that you may come across on our site. Should you find an error, please submit one via the “submit a correction” link.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Share your resources

Have a resource you think might be helpful to your fellow folklorists or cultural workers? Share it with us