STAFF & BOARD

STAFF

Ellen McHale 
Executive Director

Todd DeGarmo 
Editor and Chair, Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore

Laurie Longfield
Gallery, Administration and Publications Manager

Elinor Levy
Regional Coordinator, Mentoring and Professional Development Program

Beth Bevars
Upstate Regional Representative

Patti Mason
Associate Editor, Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore

Kira Born
Marketing Coordinator

Chibuikem Ajulu-Okeke
Web Developer Intern

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Tom van Buren, President
Independent Folklorist
Mid-Hudson

Kay Turner, Vice-President
Independent Folklorist
NYC

John Braungard, Treasurer
Hudson Valley Community College
Capital District

Naomi Sturm, Secretary
Philadelphia Folklore Project
Out of State

Gabrielle Berlinger
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Out of State

James Hall
Rochester Institute of Technology
Finger Lakes

Gamileh Jamil
Independent Artist
Western NY

Mira Johnson
Bronx Community College
NYC

Maria Kennedy
Rutgers University
Out of State

Wilfredo Morel
Hudson River Health Care
Mid-Hudson

Julie Tay
Mencius Society for the Arts
NYC

Ellen McHale

Executive Director

Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife, University of Pennsylvania 

M.A. Folklore and Folklife, University of Pennsylvania 

B.A. Music and American Studies, Wesleyan University 

Ellen grew up in rural Upstate New York, surrounded by local arts, community life, and her Great Aunt’s handmade rag rugs. During her senior year of high school, Ellen traveled to Sweden as an exchange student and fell in love with Swedish traditional music. Planning to become a musician, Ellen studied world music at Wesleyan University, where she conducted her senior thesis on fiddlers and vocal musicians in Northern Vermont. It was around that time that Ellen realized folklore was a field she could study, and she dove in.  

Ellen has worked at NYF for over 18 years. As the CEO of NYF, her responsibilities include grant writing, serving as managing editor of “Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore,” working with the NYF Board of Directors, working with the NYSCA Folk Arts Program, and serving as spokesperson for NYF. She enjoys the variety of activities each day in her job and the people that she works with. 

Before she joined NYF, Ellen worked as a public sector folklorist throughout New York State. She initiated folk arts programs at Arts Mid-Hudson and the Arts Center for the Capital District, and served as a consulting folklorist for many organizations. Ellen served as Executive Director of the Shaker Heritage Society and later as the Director of the Schoharie County Historical Society, where she gained experience managing staff, working with a board of directors, and raising funds. 

In her free time, Ellen enjoys sailing. She went on her first ocean sailing trip in 2017 with a few friends, traveling from Key West to Cuba.

 

Todd DeGarmo

Editor and Chair, Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore

A.B.D. American Studies with an emphasis on Folklife Studies, George Washington University

M.A. in Anthropology, and Archives coursework, SUNY Albany 

B.A., Colgate University

Todd DeGarmo is the founding director of the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, New York, an award-winning program known for its research collections, gallery exhibits, and innovative public programming that showcase the cultural traditions of the lower Adirondacks and upper Hudson valley. Todd cut his professional teeth in folklife studies with the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife, came back to eastern upstate New York in the mid-1980s, and has been active in public sector folklore ever since. He has taught a variety of courses to various students, including corporate Tokyo, Skidmore and Empire State Colleges, Massachusetts Audubon, and BOCES Gifted and Talented. He has served as President of the New York Folklore Society and as a Folk Arts panel member to the New York State Council on the Arts, is an advisor to the Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York, and has provided professional services to many organizations throughout the Northeast.

Todd grew up in the mid-Hudson valley (rural Dutchess County) with family ties to his father’s family farm in Saratoga County, and his mother’s homeplace on the north shore of Long Island. He currently lives a stone’s throw from the Batten Kill in Washington County, near the Vermont border. 

 

Laurie Longfield

Gallery,  Administration and Publications Manager

A.S. in Advertising Design & Production

Laurie was born and raised in Schenectady, New York, and has also lived in Seattle, Washington, New York City, Brooklyn, Colorado, and Burbank, California. Laurie joined NYF in 2009, bringing with her years of experience in the arts, banking and finance. Laurie is Manager of the Gallery of New York Folk Art and enjoys working with the gallery folk artists. She coordinates the gallery inventory and maintains artists’ records in that capacity. Laurie is also the Administrative Manager, tracking membership activity, and the administration of Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore. Before she joined NYF, Laurie worked at EF Hutton, European American Bank, and Manufacturers Hanover Trust on Wall Street, as well as the Aspen Art Museum and Chase Manhattan Bank in Colorado. She has extensive experience as a manager and human resources liaison. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking (and has had several recipes published, most notably in the Seattle (WA) Times, and the Vidalia Onion Cookbook), and visiting her family in New York City and New England. Laurie is a licensed New York State Notary Public and is Secretary of the Jay Street Business Association.

 

Elinor Levy

Regional Coordinator, Mentoring and Professional Development Program

Ph.D. in Folklore, Indiana University

M.A. in Anthropology, California State University

B.A. in Performing Arts Management, University of California

Elinor Levy, Ph.D. was raised in a family dedicated to art patronage in Oakland, CA. She earned a bachelor’s in Performing Arts Management, a self-designed major, at University of California, Riverside and worked briefly in the field in San Francisco. In 1995 she received her master’s in anthropology from California State University, Sacramento after completing a thesis on Vietnam Veterans Memorials as religious shrines. Following the advice of her mentors, who thought she was too funny for anthropology, she pursued a doctorate in folklore at Indiana University, Bloomington which she completed in 2003. Her dissertation focused on the use of folklore in collaborative methodologies using Habitat for Humanity as a case study.

Elinor has bounced around the country from California to Indiana, Georgia, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and now New York. Previously, she worked in Las Vegas as the folklorist for Clark County Parks and Recreation and as executive director of the Northwest Jersey Folklife Project. She loves working in the culturally rich Mid-Hudson Valley.

Elinor is a folk artist in her own right as a third generation knitter on her mother’s side. She has added spinning her own yarn to her skills and looks forward each year to helping a friend shear a small flock of Jacob sheep.

 

Beth Bevars

Upstate Regional Representative

M.A. Folk Studies, Western Kentucky University

B.A. Music, SUNY Geneseo

Beth joined the staff of New York Folklore as the Upstate Regional Representative in the Spring of 2019. She grew up in Interlaken, NY in the beautiful Finger Lakes. 

The great-great-great niece of half of a Vaudeville act, “Monroe and Grant,” Beth took Suzuki violin lessons from an early age and, many years later, taught violin and was Ensembles Manager of a youth orchestra in Savannah, GA. Unfortunately, she did not inherit any of the acrobatic talent demonstrated by previous generations.

Beth attended Geneseo studying violin and playing fiddle in Jim Kimball’s String Band. She discovered a love for cemeteries and vernacular architecture with Dr. Dan Fink at the Genesee Country Village and Museum and in the top of many barns across the countryside. Continuing her education at Western Kentucky University’s incomparable Folk Studies program, she earned her Masters and then proudly joined the Kentucky Historical Society as Assistant to the Kentucky State Folklorist, Bob Gates. 

Marrying a career soldier changed the trajectory of Beth’s career but she has lived and worked in wonderful places including Italy, Arizona, North Carolina and many more. Moving back to New York in 2018, Beth was delighted to find a cohesive network of folklorists. Beth is thrilled to be back working in the field of folklore and looks forward to meeting traditional artists and musicians across the state. She is also passionate about researching cemeteries and gravestone carvers so, if you have a favorite, please let her know!

Patti Mason

Associate Editor, Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore

B.S. in Biochemistry, Texas A&M University 

B.S. in Nutrition, University of Texas at Austin 

Cultural History and literature classes, Cornell University

Patti Mason joined NYF in 1997, working in the Ithaca office through May 1999. She developed, maintained, redesigned, and administered NYF’s website from 1998-2018, including the management of the online store and digital publication archives on a part-time basis. She assumed copy editing responsibilities for Voices in 2012.

Patti held a variety of positions before joining NYF. She has been a typesetter, a lab technician, a registered dietician, a database manager, a substitute teacher, and a school librarian. At Cornell University, she had the pleasure of studying cultural history and literature, taught by Dr. Michael Steinberg and Dr. Daniel R. Schwarz. She continues to assist Dr. David Sahn in the Cornell Food and Nutrition Policy Program with editing projects, including the recent volume The Fight against Hunger and Malnutrition: The Role of Food, Agriculture, and Targeted Policies (Oxford University Press, 2015).

 

Kira Born

Marketing Coordinator

B.S. in Communication & Information Design, summa cum laude, SUNY Polytechnic Institute 

Coursework in Graduate Filmmaking, Rochester Institute of Technology 

Kira joined NYF in February of 2018. Her responsibilities include designing print collateral, developing and implementing brand strategy, writing copy for the web and print, photographing folk art, video production, and providing marketing consultation. Kira enjoys the variety of work at NYF and coming up with ideas for new projects. 

Before she joined NYF, Kira worked as a copywriter and videographer at Brockett Creative Group, where she gained substantial experience in online marketing, branding, and video production. She has filmed multiple promotional videos for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, and her creative nonfiction and photography have been published in SUNY’s statewide literary magazine, Gandy Dancer. 

Kira has long been interested in folk activities, especially traditional homesteading and gardening. She learned to knit and crochet from her grandmother and explored weaving on a rigid heddle loom. In her spare time, Kira enjoys hiking, creative writing, and playing acoustic guitar.

Chibuikem Ajulu-Okeke

Web Developer Intern

Chibuikem joined NYF in April of 2018 and has been responsible for the creation of the new New York Folklore website. Before Chibuikem joined NYF, he had gained some work experience at various organizations such as the United Nations and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Chibuikem has interests in Arts and Folklore and some of his hobbies include drawing, writing code and stepping, through which he led a competitive step team while at the University at Albany.