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Voices, Spring–Summer 2017:
Follow the links on the Table of Contents to see excerpts of articles and read columns.
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Volume 43

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From Trapper’s Cabin To Festival Stage: The Evolution of an Adirondack Storyteller [excerpt]
by Varick A. Chittenden

18 Crossing Cultures [excerpt]
by Thomas J. MacPherson

24 You’ll See Our Tracks: The Raquette River Dams Oral History Project [excerpt]
by Camilla Ammirati

36 Gouging Tradition: Musings on Fingernail Fiddle Making [excerpt]
by Eric L. Ball

Departments and Columns

14 Upstate—Native Tongue: If Maps Could Talk
by Dan Berggren

15 Downstate—People’s City Report Card 2016
by Molly Garfinkel with Steve Zeitlin and Elena MartÍnez

22 ALN8BAL8MO: A Native Voice—J. N. B. Hewitt: A Voice from the Sixth Nation
by Joseph Bruchac

23 Good Spirits—Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty!
by Libby Tucker

32 Book Review—Sad Characters of American Folk Songs
by Frieda Toth

33 The Poetry of Everyday Life—Beneath the Visiting Moon: Poetry to Ease the Final Passage
by Steve Zeitlin

35 Book Review—A Jumpstart for Inspiration, A Salve for Troubled Times
by Nancy Scheemaker

44 From the Waterfront—Looking Backwards
by Nancy Solomon

46 Foodways—Food as Family History
by Jennifer Morrisey


Cover: Bill Smith in his dooryard with an Adirondack ash splint pack basket he made and uses in the woods, 1995. Photo by Martha Cooper, courtesy of TAUNY Archives. Read “The Evolution of an Adirondack Storyteller.”

Ellen McHale,PhD
From the Spring–Summer 2017 issue of Voices:

Cutting federal funding for the arts and humanities will hurt everyone. The impact won’t be short-term. There are many arguments for continuing support for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), two federal agencies slated for elimination in the President’s 2018 budget and crippled in his recommended 2017 budget. As someone involved in the arts for my entire life, I am alarmed by the shortsightedness of this action.

Government dollars carry extraordinary weight, even if actual amounts are relatively small. NEA and NEH each have been supported recently at the modest level of $148 million, only 0.004 percent (four thousandths of one percent) of the annual federal budget. Trump proposed to cut this small amount by an additional $15 million for the 2017 fiscal year and totally eliminate the agencies in 2018! At less than 1 percent of the budget, eliminating NEA and NEH will do little to reduce our nation’s deficit. Rather, it will result in a loss of revenue to communities.

Even though $148 million is a small percentage of the national budget, the effects on our communities are wide ranging. The grants provided by the National Endowments to cultural agencies of all sizes allows them to invest in the cultural lives of their communities and to nurture creative activities for people of all ages. Organizations and individuals in New York receive support—directly from the Federal Endowments or indirectly through grant support from Humanities New York or the New York State Council on the Arts. With grants from the Endowments matched dollar for dollar, NEA and NEH grants invite further investment in communities by corporations and private citizens. As stated by Janet Brown of Grantmakers in the Arts: “Since the inception of these agencies [NEA and NEH], private foundations have supported arts and culture knowing they were acting in tandem and as a ‘business investor’ with the federal government” (www.giarts.org/blog/janet/preserving-soul-america). As recognized by private foundations and other granting organizations, government support for the arts leverages other public and private investment. Economic development through the arts is also strengthened by direct public participation. Cultural activities engage residents and visitors alike; a dollar invested by NEA, for example, generates four additional dollars through private investment and tourism, as arts and culture audiences buy tickets, go out to dinner, browse retail establishments, and enjoy our communities’ downtowns.

In New York State, federal support of the arts and humanities has a direct effect on all of our communities. Although New York City is often viewed as the “Arts Capital of the World,” communities throughout the state benefit from federal support. A quick look at 2016 grants for arts projects throughout the state indicates that every county and congressional district of New York has benefitted from the NEA. As executive director of the New York Folklore Society, the statewide service organization for folk and traditional arts, I am most knowledgeable of grants that benefit the heritage of New Yorkers. Here are a few of the 2016 Folk Arts grants:
  • The Erie Canal Museum, Syracuse (Onondaga) received support for a tour of live traditional arts performances, staged on a refurbished barge traveling the Mohawk Barge/ Erie Canal, traversing New York, and providing performances and other programs.

  • Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education supports traditional arts and culture activities in schools, working directly with educators and teaching artists and impacting communities and arts education throughout the state. In 2018, Local Learning will work with western New York schools, with themes of “sense of place” and the environment.

  • The Iroquois Museum, Howes Cave (Schoharie) will offer a series of public demonstrations and workshops focused upon arts of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy.

  • Long Island Traditions (Nassau/Suffolk) and the New York Folklore Society (Schenectady/ Montgomery/Schoharie/Greene) are collaborating to explore the effects of weather events impacted by climate change. Individual responses to Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy are being collected through oral histories. Two resulting exhibitions and programs will be mounted concurrently and shown in partnership with the Long Island Museum and Schenectady County Historical Society’s Mabie Farm.

  • Staten Island Arts (Staten Island) is documenting the working waterfront, exploring the borough’s rich occupational history and lives of those who live along the waterfront.

  • Hamilton County and their county historian received support from NEH for public forums and programs on the occasion of Hamilton County’s Bicentennial.

  • Historic Hudson Valley (Ulster) received support for public programs on Washington Irving and the Art of Storytelling.
Direct support to artists is an important role of NEA, providing awards and fellowships for writing, lifetime achievement, jazz, and folk and traditional arts. National Heritage Fellowships recognize and honor masters of folk and traditional arts. In its 35-year history, the program has celebrated individuals who exemplify excellence in their chosen art form and have generously shared and nurtured traditional arts activities with others. The NEA website states that the fellowships honor “lifetime achievement, artistic excellence, and contributions to the nation’s traditional arts heritage.” There have been 413 honorees since the National Heritage Fellowship program began in 1982, recognizing excellence in artistry for music, dance, craft traditions, and folk arts advocacy and service. Honorees include Syracuse guitarist and songwriter Elizabeth Cotton (Onondaga); Klezmer clarinetist Andy Statman (Brooklyn); Ghanaian drummer Yacub Addy (Albany); Lindy Hopper Frankie Manning (Queens); Puerto Rican lace maker Rosa Elena Egipciaco (New York); and gospel musician, in the Sacred Steel tradition, Chuck Campbell (Monroe). The nation’s highest honor for folk and traditional artists, this award recognizes the diversity that is at the core of America’s strength.

I am convinced that Americans do care about the creative life of America. I urge you to contact your Congressperson today. Ask them to support the NEA and NEH. Their loss will be a loss for America’s cultural heritage and the elimination of a strong economic driver in our communities.

Ellen McHale, PhD
Executive Director
New York Folklore Society

“Just as America values its national parks for all to enjoy, our history, culture, and art are no less valuable to Americans. They are the soul of our nation and the conscience of our people. The elimination of these federal agencies would send the message that Americans don’t care about their history, their culture, and their art.”

—Janet Brown, President & CEO, Grantmakers in the Arts

Todd DeGarmo
From the Spring–Summer 2017 issue of Voices:

The Smithsonian’s 1986 Festival of American Folklife launched my career. In my first paid job as a folklorist, I was hired as an Assistant Program Coordinator for the program, “Rice in Japanese Folk Culture,” curated by Alicia Maria Gonzalez of the Office of Folklife Programs.

Now in its 50th year, the Folklife Festival remains a premier international exhibition of living cultural heritage, presented annually for two weeks around the Fourth of July on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Attracting over a million visitors yearly, the celebration is the largest annual cultural event in the nation’s capital.

Some 30 years ago, I was part of the team that created a temporary Japanese village on the National Mall. It ran from the village rice paddy, through a collection of craft workshops and performance stages for music and dance, cooking, and children’s activities, to the Shinto shrine at the end of the lane—all populated by guest artisans and performers from Japan.

We were actually allowed to build a rice paddy on the National Mall (under the watchful eyes of the National Park Service). Here, performances of traditional music and dance with ritual rice planting welcomed visitors, as did a 13-foot tall rice straw effigy, erected to ward off sickness and evil spirits at the village entrance.

In shops along the village lane, visitors met Japanese artisans working on crafts: rice-straw boots, candles, and raincoats; umbrellas of split bamboo and rice paper held together with rice glue; bamboo winnowers and baskets; clay jars for storing rice and wood barrels to hold rice wine; resist-dyeing with rice paste; papier-mâché with rice glue for dolls and masks depicting characters in folk drama. Performers danced, sang, and played traditional instruments. Others cooked and shared children’s games. This was cultural exchange up close and personal.

This life-altering job grew out of an internship while I was a doctoral student at George Washington University. I worked on the photo text panels that complemented the living, performative presentations of the festival. It was a practical application for my studies in folk culture and Japanese literature, and my “seriousness and exactitude” were noticed.

“Tokyo Todd,”
a departing gift from a Japanese friend.

In this first job, I could share my love of Japanese culture acquired in Tokyo (1983–84) while teaching conversational English to corporate management. It was a means to immerse myself in a culture so different from my own. The ever present aroma of a simple dashi broth. Water spilling over the rim of a cedar hot tub, as cherry blossoms petals began to fall.

In Japan, I was introduced to a reverence for age, custom, and tradition. I saw the government actively supporting the nation’s artistic heritage with the honorable title, “Living National Treasure,” the highest award given to Japanese artists, charged with passing on the traditions to future generations.

Over 30 years later, I remain grateful for this early opportunity. A government-supported program set me on a path that continues to help my patrons appreciate the diverse cultural heritage of upstate New York and beyond. Let’s hope government programs like the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, partnered with non-profit organizations and private corporations, continue to support new generations of educators, ever striving to break down the barriers separating people all over the globe.

Todd DeGarmo
Voices Acquisitions Editor
Founding Director of the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library






Spring–Summer 2017, Volume 43:1–2

Acquisitions Editor
   Todd DeGarmo
Copy Editor
   Patricia Mason
Administrative Manager
   Laurie Longfield
   Mary Beth Malmsheimer
   Eastwood Litho

Editorial Board Gabrielle Berlinger, Chair.
Sydney Hutchinson, Maria Kennedy, David Puglia, Puja Sahney, Joseph Sciorra, Emily Socolov, Nancy Solomon

Advisory Board Varick Chittenden, Nancy Groce, Lee Haring, Elizabeth Tucker, Dan Ward, George Ward, Steve Zeitlin

Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore is published twice a year by the New York Folklore Society, Inc.

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