REGIONAL PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENTS: Additional Information on Folk Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to supporting folk & traditional arts in every state, region, and territory. Our recent Living Traditions report includes significant data that shows the strategic role that folk & traditional arts grants and programs play in serving the nation’s most rural and impoverished communities. Likewise, the report illuminates the power of institutional partnerships (between SAAs, RAOs, and nonprofit partners) to extend the reach of arts agencies to the nation’s most underserved communities.

Beginning in FY2021, the Arts Endowment is increasing its commitment for folk & traditional arts. In the past, Partnership Agreements have not required Folk Arts Partnership programs at SAAs and RAOs. With a new goal of supporting folk & traditional arts in every state, territory, and region, the choice not to participate has been removed. Funds will be awarded based on the strength of the SAA’s or RAO’s plans in relation to the Partnership Agreements review criteria.

SAAs and RAOs who do not have in-house Folk Arts Partnership programs have regularly worked with nonprofit organizations to carry out Folk Arts Partnerships and extend the resources of SAAs and RAOs. We wish to honor such collaborations by formalizing these institutional partnerships through the Partnership Agreement. SAAs, RAOs, and collaborating nonprofit organizations will engage in a three year funding cycle, allowing greater capacity for long-term planning.

SAAs and RAOs engaged in planning are encouraged to contact the Arts Endowment’s Folk & Traditional Arts staff for consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. We are an SAA/RAO that is currently without a Folk Arts Partnership program. Will we receive assistance or guidance to help us plan a program? If so, whom should I contact?

    A: Yes, there will be assistance. Contact Cheryl Schiele at to learn more.

  2. Our SAA/RAO has historically partnered with a nonprofit organization or university to carry out our Folk Arts Partnership. Will we still be able to do this?

    A: Yes, although the process will be different for nonprofits who previously applied directly to the Arts Endowment for Folk Arts Partnership funds:

    • For SAAs/RAOs whose applications have historically included a folk arts funding request, whereby funding was dispersed by the SAA/RAO to longstanding partners at nonprofit organizations or universities, the new guidelines do not affect the existing partnerships. There are updated application requirements, however, and you will need to review those in the guidelines.

    • For SAAs/RAOs who have historically provided a support letter to nonprofit organizations or universities, thereby allowing the nonprofit to be the applicant-of-record, the new guidelines will affect the application process. Nonprofit organizations will no longer be able to apply to the Arts Endowment for Folk Arts Partnerships funds. Instead, Folk Arts Partnership funding will be awarded directly to the SAA/RAO. The SAA/RAO may enter into an agreement with the nonprofit partner to manage the folk arts program. There are updated application requirements that you will need to review in the guidelines.

  3. If we are a nonprofit organization or university and have applied directly for Folk Arts Partnership funding in the past, how will we be affected?

    A: Nonprofit or university organizations will no longer be able to apply directly to the Arts Endowment for Folk Arts Partnership funding. Your organization will need to partner with your SAA/RAO, with a work plan described in the SAA/RAO application that identifies the nonprofit/university carrying out the work in partnership with the SAA/RAO. There are updated application requirements that you will need to review in the guidelines.

  4. We are an SAA/RAO who has been submitting a letter of support to a nonprofit or university. How do we begin this transition?

    A: The Arts Endowment will be happy to facilitate a conversation and consult on the best course of action with you and your nonprofit or university partner. Contact Cheryl Schiele at to learn more.

  5. Does this mean our SAA/RAO has to hire a staff position? If not, what are our options?

    A: No, these new guidelines do not mean you will need to hire/create a staff position. There are several options depending on your current Folk Arts Partnership plans. Programs can take a variety of shapes, ranging from developing an in-house program, to facilitating partnerships with external non-profits and universities, contracting fieldwork that is tied to SAA/RAO grantmaking programs such as apprenticeships, organizing networks of folklife/cultural heritage stakeholders, and so on.

  6. Our SAA/RAO has had a Folk Arts Partnership program for some time now. Do the new guidelines require us to change the way I am running that program?

    A: For SAAs/RAOs who have received Folk Arts Partnership funding within the last three years, depending on your programs, there may be no to minimal change to partnerships already in-place.

  7. What do we do if we are unable to meet the match for my increased partnership agreement grant now that folk arts is included in it?

    A. Contact your program specialist.

  8. What do you mean by “outreach-driven”?

    A: As the Living Traditions report shows, Folk Arts Partnerships excel at connecting SAA/RAO resources to hard-to-reach communities when they are driven by face-to-face outreach initiatives. Best practices include ethnographic fieldwork surveys that identify traditional artists and community organizations, as well as the convening of folklife and cultural heritage stakeholders. Research shows that many of the artists and organizations who most readily identify with folklife and cultural heritage initiatives do not always identify as stakeholders in the arts. Therefore, connecting folklife stakeholders with SAA/RAO resources requires intentional, face-to-face communication in addition to online promotion of programs. 

  9. How will applications be reviewed?

    A: Applications will be evaluated in relation to the published review criteria as part of the larger SAA/RAO application. Reviewers who have expertise in Folk & Traditional Arts will be involved in this process.

  10. We are in an off-year for FY21. How will this affect our application?

    A: There are a few different scenarios to consider:

    • For off-year SAAs/RAOs already receiving Folk Arts Partnership funding directly, review the updated language for the narrative component of your application. However, there should be no disruption to the way funds are allocated in the grant.

    • For off-year SAAs/RAOs who have historically submitted support letters for nonprofit organizations and university applicants, review the updated language for the narrative component of your application. Folk Arts Partnership funding will be included in your grant. You may secure your existing partnership, distributing funding to the nonprofit organization or university directly.

    • For off-year SAAs/RAOs who will be receiving Folk Arts Partnership funding for the first time, you may follow the guidelines for the narrative component of the application.

  11. Will we need to determine and submit a funding amount for Folk Arts Partnership?

    A: No. The Folk Arts Partnership funding allocation will be determined by the Arts Endowment, keeping the amounts close to the amounts previously granted and contingent upon the Arts Endowment’s overall budget.