Skip to Main Content

American Folklife Center: Research Awards, Fellowships and Funded Internships

Description and information about applying for Artists in Resonance awards.

Artists in Resonance: Awards to Support Creating Musical Works Inspired by American Folklife Center Archival Collections

About the Fellowship

The American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress is pleased to invite applications for Artists in Resonance Fellowships at the AFC to support artists in creating new musical works inspired by and sourced from collection materials in the American Folklife Center Archives.

One Fellowship of $10,000 will be awarded annually by the American Folklife Center.

Singer-songwriter Mehuman performs "Up Above My Head I Hear Music in the Air” at 2023 Folk Alliance International Archive Challenge Showcase in Kansas City, Missouri. She learned the song from a 1949 Alan Lomax recording of Sister Rosetta Tharpe in the AFC archive. 2023. American Folklife Center.

Deadline for next Artists in Resonance award: 11:59 pm April 5, 2024.

During the fellowship, American Folklife Center reference librarians, archivists, folklorists, and ethnomusicologists will work closely with the awardee to support aspects of project development, including research; rights and permissions; obtaining copies of relevant recordings, manuscripts, and photographs; assistance in determining whether a given song or tune is traditional or under copyright; and assistance with using onsite analog and digital content delivery systems.

The major goals of the Fellowships are:

  • To increase artist engagement with AFC collections and to strengthen relationships between AFC and the artistic community;
  • To bring treasures from AFC collections to as many people as possible, through means that music is currently and commonly distributed and presented;
  • To demonstrate the continuing relevance of AFC collections to contemporary society of diverse cultural traditions and their history, themes, and expressions;
  • To engage, inspire, and inform artists and their audiences with collection material that is a universal and enduring source of knowledge and creativity.

Background: American Folklife Center Archive

The AFC Archive has an unparalleled collection of sound recordings, manuscripts, and photographs of traditional culture from throughout the world. Many amazing artists have mined the collections in the American Folklife Center’s Archive for creative reuse.

Composer Aaron Copland created the “Hoe-Down” section of his ballet Rodeo in 1942 using Kentucky fiddler Bill Stepp’s version of “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” which Alan and Elizabeth Lomax collected for us in 1937. Jazz musicians Miles Davis and Gil Evans used Alan Lomax’s 1952 field recording of Galician farm worker José Maria Rodriguez playing his dawn song as the theme for “The Pan Piper” on Davis’s classic album Sketches of Spain. The list is long. From the grandest world stages to the smallest clubs, music inspired by AFC collections has captivated listeners in an endless variety of genres.

Mississippi John Hurt recording for the AFC Archive in 1964, with folklorists Rae Korson (then Head of the Archive of Folk Song) and Joe Hickerson (then Reference Librarian) in background. 1964. American Folklife Center.

Music in the AFC Archive includes everything from the first wax cylinder recordings of Native American song from the 1890s, to John and Alan Lomax’s pioneering disc recordings of the 1930s and 1940s, to recent born-digital documentation of folk concerts of all kinds. Best known American performers in the Archive include Muddy Waters, Pete Seeger, Honeyboy Edwards, Woody Guthrie, Aunt Molly Jackson, Lead Belly, Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, and Jean Ritchie -- not to mention major international collections featuring performances by thousands of outstanding artists from Haiti to Morocco and around the world.

From songs of Dust-Bowl-era migrant workers to Ohio canal songs, African American gospel to Spanish-language hymns from New Mexico, dance tunes from Haiti, work songs from 1930s Florida turpentine camps, Chinese opera and Virginia fiddle tunes, there’s sure to be something in AFC’s renowned collections of sound recordings, manuscripts, photographs, and moving images that will inspire artists to the next level of creative growth.

Expectations

In addition to creating a new musical work(s) inspired by and sourced from the collection materials of in the American Folklife Center:

Successful applicants have the opportunity to participate in a Library sponsored live or recorded, virtual or in-person performance, interview, blog post, or panel discussion for purposes of sharing discoveries made during the award period with a wider community.

Successful applicants are also invited to provide a copy of any resulting commercially published recording, book, or video for donation to the collections of the Library of Congress.

It is the responsibility of the fellow to notify AFC staff of any other publicity for the project.

This is a fellowship for independent research; therefore, the fellow will be responsible for determining any copyright or other restrictions applied to their intended uses of collection materials.

Eligibility, Tenure and Stipend, Payment

Eligibility

Stephen Winick, photographer. Jake Blount features materials from the AFC Archive as well as his own compositions during Homegrown concert in the Library of Congress’s Members Room. 2023. American Folklife Center.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents over the age of 18, and may include emerging artists, mid-career artists, or veteran artists. Eligibility extends to all 50 U.S. states, protectorates, territories, and the District of Columbiia

Only one person may receive funds under this award. If a proposed project involves a group, it is the responsibility of the group to determine how to share or distribute an award made to the individual listed as the recipient in the application.

Projects should involve the creation of new work that does not predate the award. This award is not intended to support publication or re-issues of pre-existing work, or work that cannot be verified as being based on specific AFC collection material. Successful applicants cannot reapply in subsequent years for the same project.

Tenure and Stipend

The successful applicant will be awarded $10,000 to support expenses related to developing musical works based upon research in AFC archival collections. The length of the engagement is up to 12 months after the award letter is received. Research involving the AFC Archives should occur within 12 months of the disbursal of the award There is no minimum onsite time requirement; however, some collections are only accessible onsite, and onsite research helps facilitate greater access to staff expertise.

Payment

The award will be paid upon completion of all award paperwork.

Selection Process and Timeline

Selection Process

Applications will be evaluated by a committee composed of American Folklife Center staff, a member of the AFC Board of Trustees, and invited panelists from within or outside the Library of Congress. The committee will assess each application for:

  • alignment with existing archival collection material and staff expertise;
  • feasibility;
  • importance of specific AFC collection material to the development of the project;
  • possible impact of the completed project;
  • potential effectiveness of a dissemination plan for the final creative product.

Deadline and Timeline

Deadline: Applications will be accepted up to 11:59 pm on April 5, 2024.

Summer 2024: Successful applicant will be notified.

Early Fall 2024: Project begins and funds distributed after acceptance and processing of award.

Application Form Instructions

Applicants are strongly urged to consult with AFC Reference staff for information on appropriate collection materials and their availability prior to submitting their applications. For more information, contact Reference staff at 202-707-5510 or email [email protected]

CRITERIA: When responding to questions in Part C: Project Proposal of the application (see below), keep the following criteria in mind:

  • Connection: How do you describe your connection to or interest in the traditions or cultural expressions represented in the collection materials you propose to research? In other words, what motivated you to choose your proposed project?
  • Experience and background: What experience, training, or skills support your ability to complete the project? Formal training in composition, voice, an instrument, audio-visual production, or performance are not required, but experience in taking a project from initial idea to completed concert, recording, video, podcast, or other production will make a proposal more competitive.
  • Viability and scope: Can the proposed creative project--(including all associated people and services required)--be completed in time to meet the awards deadline. Successful applications will provide evidence that the scale and scope of the project is appropriate to the proposed budget and proposed timeline.

Applicant must submit:

  • Cover sheet (see below);
  • A completed application form that describes artist's qualifications, the proposed project, benefit of having access to AFC collections, project schedule, and potential outcomes (see below.);
  • Names, addresses, phone numbers, and/or email addresses of three (3) references who can attest to the quality of applicant's professional work and qualifications to undertake the project.

Attach your application to an email with the subject line "[your last name] Artists In Resonance application." Address the email to the Artists in Resonance Committee at: [email protected]. Email your submission, (do not send via the U.S. Postal Service).

Application Form

[NOTE: Copy and paste the text below into your own word processor to create the application document]

APPLICATION FORM - Cover Sheet, Background Information and Narrative Questions

Part A. COVER SHEET

Name:

Full Postal Address:

Phone Number(s):

Email:

Part B. YOUR BACKGROUND INFORMATION

1/ Brief artist bio (links to websites, electronic press kit, or artist resume acceptable).

2/ Work examples, minimum of 2 required; maximum of 6 (links to online video or audio acceptable).

3/ Names, addresses, phone numbers, and/or email addresses of three (3) references who can attest to the applicant's professional work and qualifications to undertake the project.

Part C. PROJECT PROPOSAL

1/ Please outline the creative project you wish the American Folklife Center to support. (maximum 500 words)

2/ How would access to the collection material in the American Folklife Center Archive benefit your creative project? (maximum 150 words)

3/ What is your desired goal or final product that would result from an Artist Residency? (e.g., published recording, concert tour, film or videos, lecture/concerts) (maximum 150 words)

4/ SCHEDULE: What is the proposed time frame for your project? Include your research time in our Archive/Folklife Reading Room, any composing/arranging, learning/mastery of material, collaboration, recording and mixing, post-production, etc.

SUBMISSION

 

Email your submission (do not send it via the U.S. Postal Service).. Attach your application to an email with the subject line "[your last name] Artists In Resonance application." Address the email to the Artists in Resonance Committee at: [email protected].