Roxy Todd Published

Five Artisans Selected to Carry on Appalachian Traditions


Folk artists, musicians, and chefs across the mountain state will be teaching their crafts to apprentices during 2018, as part of a new project by the West Virginia Folklife Program — a project of the West Virginia Humanities Council. The Humanities Council selected five master artist and apprentice pairs, including salt rising bakers, gospel musicians, and Appalachian fiddlers.

According to a press release from the Humanities Council, the goal of the program is to “facilitate the transmission of techniques and artistry of the forms, as well as their histories and traditions.”

The Apprenticeship program offers up to a $3,000 stipend to West Virginia master traditional artists or tradition bearers working with qualified apprentices on a year-long in-depth apprenticeship in their cultural expression or traditional art form.

The 2017-2018 master artists and apprentices include:

  • Genevieve Bardwell & West Virginia native Susan Ray Brown, both residents of Mount Morris, PA, will lead an apprenticeship in salt-rising bread with apprentice Amy Dawson of Lost Creek, WV. Bardwell and Brown opened Rising Creek Bakery in Mount Morris in 2010 and have documented and taught the Appalachian tradition of salt-rising bread baking across West Virginia. Dawson, a native of Harrison County, is a baker, cook, and farmer at Lost Creek Farm, a farm-to-table traveling kitchen.
  • Doris A. Fields of Beckley will lead an apprenticeship in blues and black gospel music with apprentice Xavier C. Oglesby of Huntington. Fields, who performs as Lady D and is known as West Virginia’s First Lady of Soul, has performed original and traditional blues, gospel, R&B, and soul across the state, region, and country, including for a President Obama Inaugural Ball. Oglesby grew up singing in black Pentecostal churches and has performed in local a capella and theatre groups.
  • Marion Harless of Kerens in Randolph County will lead an apprenticeship in green traditions with Kara Vaneck of Weston. Harless is a co-founder of the Mountain State Organic Growers and Buyers Association and the West Virginia Herb Association, and has taught widely on medicinal herbs, edible landscaping, and native plants. Vaneck is the owner of Smoke Camp Crafts and has served as vice president and treasurer of the West Virginia Herb Association.
  • John D. Morris of Ivydale will lead an apprenticeship on old-time fiddling, focusing on the traditions of Clay County, with Jen Iskow of Thomas. Morris is an acclaimed West Virginia fiddler and tradition bearer who has been honored by the Augusta Heritage Center, the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, and the West Virginia Fiddler Award for his role in sustaining the tradition. Iskow, a West Virginia University alumni and marketing assistant at the Augusta Heritage Center, is an old-time fiddler who has studied with numerous masters of the tradition.
  • Doug Van Gundy of Elkins will lead an apprenticeship on old-time fiddling with apprentice Annie Stroud of Morgantown. Van Gundy, an eighth-generation West Virginian, apprenticed with fiddler Mose Coffman through the 1993 Augusta Heritage Apprenticeship Program. Stroud is a Greenbrier County native who plays fiddle with the Allegheny Hellbenders string band and is a member of the Morgantown Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance.