Lynnwood artist chosen for state apprenticeship program

Siyeon Park

Nonprofit Humanities Washington, the state branch of the National Endowment for the Humanities, along with the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions, have selected Lynnwood artist Siyeon Park to receive a grant to participate in the innovative arts learning program of heritage (HAAP) of this year.

Park and his master, Sinae Joy Cheh of Seattle, are one of 16 teams of artists and culture bearers selected to help preserve traditional skills in Washington state. Studies in the program include music, visual arts, professional arts, dance, culinary traditions, storytelling, and other verbal arts.

The state has its own unique and vibrant collection of cultural traditions, which showcase its cultural heritage. These traditions are carried on by a diverse community that includes Indigenous peoples, recent immigrants and more. Co-sponsored by Humanities Washington and the Washington State Commission for the Arts (ArtsWA), HAAP was launched to encourage individuals to learn traditional trades, crafts or skills. The organization preserves and helps carry on cultural traditions important to Washington communities.

Apprentice Artist Park will study with Cheh the art of playing the gayageum, a traditional instrument from the small Korean kingdom of Kaya. Originally created with 12 strings, the gayageum is currently made up of 25 strings. Thus, the possibilities of its musical range have more than doubled and are particularly suited to contemporary Korean music. Park will learn in detail how to master this modern form of the instrument.

A master artist is defined as an expert rooted in a tradition, a craft or a technique: a “bearer of tradition” or “guardian of culture” who is granted the right to carry and transmit a tradition or knowledge. -do, through the recognition of its community.

An apprentice has taken the time to learn a skill or tradition from a master artist and to continue it after completing formal training. Whether it is a novice or an individual who has already undergone training, the apprentice seeks individual training with a master artist to deepen his knowledge.

The possibility for an artist to be supervised by a master qualified in his specialty is particularly exciting for the master and the apprentice. They will spend over 100 hours working together during the program year. This invaluable learning experience helps apprentice practitioners develop important leadership skills that will help their communities as well as preserve the cultural traditions that participants represent and that are at risk of being lost.

The Center for Washington Cultural Traditions, a program of Humanities Washington, is presented in partnership with ArtsWA. They collaborate with communities across the state to conduct research and programs to support and advance understanding of Washington State’s living cultural heritage.

Established by the state legislature in 1961, ArtsWA works in partnership with artists and arts organizations across Washington. They seek to support, defend and cultivate the precious artistic resources of the state.

Humanities Washington, the state branch of the National Endowment for the Humanities, hosts hundreds of free events each year, covering history, current social issues and more.

Gabrielle Nomura Winner

Another HAAP participant, Gabrielle Nomura Gainor, will be apprenticing with Master Kazuko Kaya Yamazaki of Tracyton, Washington. Gainor will study traditional Kagura, a sacred Japanese dance performed during Shinto rituals and ceremonies. In Washington State, this ancient art is still practiced at the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America in Granite Falls, the one and only Shinto shrine in the Americas.

Gainor, whose family was incarcerated during World War II, identifies primarily as an American of Japanese descent. She recently left her role as head of communications and audience engagement for the Seattle Opera to become director of engagement at the School of Drama at the University of Washington. However, her original artistic training was not in opera or theater, but as a dancer and choreographer.

Growing up, Gainor had always wanted to study with Yamazaki, who was a close friend of Gainor’s ballet teacher. In addition to learning Kagura, Gainor will study the techniques leading to Kagura.

Gainor was intrigued by the opportunity to study dance, not only to perform in front of an audience, but also to connect spiritually with her Japanese ancestors. In applying for the grant, she hoped to share and give back to her Asian American community, who struggled with everyone during the traumatic events of the past year.

As part of the HAAP program, Gainor believes she will be able to apply what she has learned about Shinto ceremonial dance to generate healing for the entire Pan Asian community. Upon completion of the program, she plans to incorporate some of that learning into volunteering at the Shinto shrine, dancing with Yamazaki at Japanese festivals, and teaching in schools and community centers. In general, to use their new knowledge to bring their community together.

The Heritage Arts Learning Program will conclude with a free event to introduce the public to these unique cultural traditions, at a date and time to be announced. More information can be found at,, and

– By Erica Miner

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