NYFS logo           tagline
 Pinto Guira making guiramaking lacemaking a mandalaplaying mandolin
The New York Folklore Society
celebrates the extraordinary in
everyday life, bringing focus
to traditions of our state’s
diverse peoples.

NYFS fosters the study, promotion, and continuation of folklore and folklife of New York’s diverse cultures through education, advocacy, support, and outreach.


W. F. H. “Bill” Nicolaisen (1927–2016)

It is with sadness that we report the death of folklore scholar and NYFS friend, Bill Nicolaisen. His daughter Birgit says, “he passed peacefully listening to his favorite Scottish music,” in the company of his wife May and daughters Fiona, Kirsten, and Moira in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Bill served as the Society’s President (1972–1976) and was appointed an Honorary Vice President in 1991. Born in Germany, Bill was acquainted with the Society while in Europe and became very active in the Society while serving as Professor at the State University at Binghamton. Even after retirement from teaching and his resettling in Scotland, he remained a loyal member of the New York Folklore Society. There will be a memorial service for Bill at a later date in Binghamton and more information will appear here.
—Ellen McHale, Executive DIrector NYFS

Visit the Gallery of New York Artists at the
New York Folklore Society

New York Folklore Society
129 Jay Street
Schenectady, NY
Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
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SEE “Railroad Phaintings!” with K. O. Wilson on Schenectady Today



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vernacular architecture
Photo by Ellen McHale
2016 NYFS Conference!

Crisis of Place: Preserving Folk & Vernacular Architecture
in New York

Saturday, April 2, 2016
The Cooper Union, Rose Auditorium
New York City

⇒  See Conference Schedule.
⇒  See Photos from the Conference.

In this one-day conference, folklorists, architects, historic preservationists, museum professionals, community members, and students came together to address questions concerning the significant crisis in our understanding of everyday landscapes and the built environment:

What is the folk and vernacular architecture of New York State? What makes it “folk” or “vernacular?”
How are the conditions of urban and rural life in 2016 challenging traditional architectural practices among various ethnic and regional communities?
Who is sustaining vernacular design and construction in the face of globalization and gentrification, and why?

The conference featured plenary and panel presentations with: Michael Ann Williams (Western Kentucky University); Andrew Dolkart (Columbia University); Chris Mulé (Brooklyn Arts Council); Joseph Sciorra (John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, Queens College); Molly Garfinkel (Place Matters, City Lore); Magali Regis (NYC Community Garden Coalition, Sustainable Architecture); Cynthia Falk (Cooperstown Graduate Program in Material Culture); Kay Turner (President, American Folklore Society); Hanna Griff-Sleven (Eldridge Street Synagogue); Maria Kennedy (Arts Council of the Southern Finger Lakes); Nancy Solomon (Long Island Traditions); Julie Tay (Mencius Society of the Arts); David Favaloro (Lower East Side Tenement Museum); Gabrielle A. Berlinger (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill); Zoe van Buren (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill); and graduate students specializing in folk and vernacular architecture. READ more about the conference here...

See author Ellen McHale interviewed on Schenectady Today In & Around the Capital Region (11/24/15)


A NYFS Folk Arts Forum:
Democratizing the (Folk) Arts Nonprofit Workplace
February 28, 2016, 5-8 p.m.
Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York), South Oxford Space
Brooklyn, NY 11217

SEE VIDEOS from the Forum

The New York Folklore Society convened an evening Folk Arts Forum with a panel discussion, breakout sessions, and collective dialogue on the topic of “Democratizing the Arts nonprofit Workplace.” The program presented various perspectives approaching this topic. This forum generated and documented a varied and critical conversation about best practices in the (folk) arts nonprofit field (aka public sector ethnography/culture work) and explored several different schools of thought about how more sustainable and more democratic ways of working together in the field of folk arts may be achieved. FIND out more here...

Refugees enrich our communities with their skills, dreams, and aspirations. NYFS supports continued resettlement
in the US.

STABLE VIEWSA moving revelation of the many essential workers and their lives on the backside of horse racing


Stable Views offers an inside look at the thoroughbred racing industry through the words and perspectives of those who labor within its stables. In more than 14 years of field research, NYFS Director Ellen E. McHale traveled the Eastern Seaboard, Kentucky, and Louisiana, gathering oral narratives from those most intimately involved with racing: stable workers, exercise riders, and horse trainers who form the backbone of the industry. She interviewed workers at Saratoga, Belmont, Tampa Bay Downs, Keeneland, the Evangeline Training Center in Louisiana, and the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida.

160 pages (approx.), 8 x 8 inches, 45 color photographs, bibliography, index

Ask the New York Folklore Society about opportunities for
Mentoring and Professional Development

NYFS Director Ellen McHale
Visits China...
Read more here.

Ellen in China
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NYS Council on the Arts
The New York Folklore Society’s programs are made possible in part with public funds from the Folk Arts Program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Additional funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, The William Gundry Broughton Charitable Trust, The Arthur Z. Solomon Charitable Trust, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, New York Council on the Humanities, Stewarts’ Corporation, IBM Corporation, the Community Loan Fund of the Greater Capital Region, the Rotary Club of Schenectady, and Schenectady County Initiative Program.

© 2016, 2015–1998 New York Folklore Society. Last updated April 29, 2016

NEW YORK FOLKLORE SOCIETY ♦ 129 Jay Street ♦ Schenectady, NY 12305 ♦ 518.346.7008 ♦ Fax 518.346.6617 ♦ nyfs@nyfolklore.org