Congratulations to the 2023 recipients of the annual Southwest Folklife Alliance (SFA) Master-Apprentice Award! This year’s recipients represent a wide array of cultures and folk traditions, from Tohono O’odham pottery to guzheng, a plucked 21-string Chinese zither. The recipients were nominated by community members and selected by a panel of cultural leaders and peers.

The award provides $5,000 each to Arizona-based artist/tradition bearer and $500 to an emerging-artist mentee to support the transmission of traditional knowledge for one year. The first award program of its kind in Arizona, it joins over 20 similar award programs across the nation and affirms the organization’s commitment to individual heritage-based artists, economic development, and the transmission of cultural knowledge. Since 2015, the program has provided awards to nearly 80 master artists.

“We are so excited to recognize artists that hail from so many walks of life and disciplines,” said Denise Uyehara, SFA Program Manager, Artist Services. “It’s deeply moving to see artists in this region passing along what they have learned from their elders and teachers to a new generation of practitioners. And it’s significant that many of them are nominated by their community members, who point to them as master artists in the region. This cultivates not only longevity, but also community pride.”

2023 Master-Apprentice Award Recipients

Jing Xia, master of the guzheng, a plucked 21-string Chinese zither

Porfirio “Pilo” Mora, a potter in the Mata Ortiz tradition

J. Javier Enríquez, a mariachi composer and director of Los Cuatro Vientos mariachi quartet

Kathleen Vance, a potter of Tohono O’odham utilitarian pottery

Maximiliano Larrea, a master Argentine “Mestizon” guitarist and director of the Tango Guitar Project. His apprentice is Facundo Martinez, an Argentine classical guitarist from Mendoza

Rhonda Coleman (Contramestra Onda Mansa), a capoeirista with the community of Grupo Capoeira Angola Guerreiro de Palmares

Ancliff “Ansel” Joseph, a master steel pan (steel drum) maker and performer

Ken Koshio, a taiko player who also plays the Shamisen (three-stringed instrument) and Shinobue (bamboo flute)

Andrea Gallegos, one of the first female mariachi directors in the Southwest

Fitzgerald DeFreitas, a maker carnival-type costumes called “mas” (from masquerade) in Caribbean carnival celebrations

Read their full bios here!

The award program is made possible by a partnership with the Arizona Commission on the Arts, supported by the National Endowments for the Arts Folk & Traditional Arts through a State Partnership Grant. Funding also comes from individual gifts from local donors. In addition to the awards, SFA will promote work by Master-Apprentice artist teams throughout the year. SFA assists nominees and applicants during the application process, to ensure an equitable and competitive process.

Banner photos (left to right): Jing Xia, Porfirio “Pilo” Mora, and Ancliff “Ansel” Joseph. All photos by Stephen Meckler, courtesy of Southwest Folklife Alliance.