The nominating committee of the New York Folklore Board has announced their slate for the 2022-2024 Board of Directors. Thank you to these talented individuals who have agreed to offer their expertise to New York Folklore!
As is stated in the New York Folklore Society’s bylaws,
Members of the Board of Directors shall be elected by a The Board of Directors, functioning as a nominating committee, shall prepare a slate of candidates for those offices which are open. The slate of candidate shall be presented to the membership. Election shall be by majority vote of those members Voting shall be by mailed paper ballot, or by electronic means such as email, on-line survey, or other electronic medium. New offices shall assume their offices immediately upon completion of the election. The term of office for elected officers shall be two years.
Please take a moment to read the biographies of these members and vote for their election to the board at the following link: Vote Here
We will present the results of this poll via our website. These new members will join continuing members: Maria Kennedy, President; Jim Hall, Treasurer; Mira Johnson, Secretary; and board members Wilfredo Morel, Mackenzie Kwok, Ed Y.J.Millar, Will Walker, Evelyn D’Agostino, and Tom van Buren as past President. With this election, we also express our appreciation to outgoing board members Naomi Sturm-Wijesinghe and Gamileh Jamil.
Not a member of New York Folklore? Please consider joining us in our work!
Slate of New York Folklore Board Members – 2022-2024
Sandra A. M Bell – NYC Region (Production Manager, Producer, Teaching Artist) is a third generation Carnival Costume Designer. Ms. Bell is CEO of Journeyagents, Inc an artist booking and special event production company. Co-Founder of JOUVAYFEST Collective preserving and presenting Trinidad & Tobago classic style J’ouvert locally, nationally and internationally. Ms. Bell has co-produced 3 CD Recording with Natural Expression Rhythm Band, Punta Rock Explosion & World Connection B.V and Arufudei Wanichigu with Garifuna International Band. Additionally, she is the Production Manager & Agent for Something Positive Inc, premier Afro-Caribbean Performing Arts Company. She has worked with major cultural venues and festival organizations in the United States and abroad. As a teaching artist consultant in schools, museums & community centers, Ms. Bell assists students in creating visionary and inspiring art. She is a New York Foundation of the Arts Fellow and has earned numerous grants & awards. Ms. Bell has a BA in Arts Administration from NYU & Certificates in Film & Television production from WNET/TV Film & Video School. Ms. Bell is also is the Individual of The Year for Best Costume Design 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019 by the Brooklyn Carnival J’ouvert City International and Trinidad & Tobago Traditional Mas competitions.
Nada Odeh – Central New York (teaching artist, museum professional) is an artist, museum curator, and educator who holds a BFA in Fine Arts from the University of Damascus, Syria and an MFA in Museum Studies from Syracuse University. She has curated exhibitions throughout the United States and in Belgium, and served as a Middle Eastern folk arts consultant for exhibitions and art programs, including NYSCA funded programs at the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn and at New York Folklore. Currently, she is working on a NYSCA-funded Individual Artists’ grant to design and execute a mural.
Aaron Paige- Hudson Valley (ethnomusicologist, public folklorist, performing artist, educator) He is the Director of Folk & Traditional Arts at ArtsWestchester where he works in collaboration with many cultural, ethnic, immigrant, and occupational communities to identify, document, safeguard and present the diverse cultural heritage and artistic practices of the region. He holds an MA in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University and is completing a PhD at the same university. Prior to taking up his position as Director of Folk Arts, Aaron worked as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Denver. His academic work focuses on issues of race, class, caste, and language in the popular music of Tamil Nadu, India, as well as the Tamil diasporas of Malaysia, Singapore, and Canada. He has been studying and performing South Indian percussion for the last two decades under mrdangam artists David Nelson and Palladam R. Ravi. His research has been supported by a Fulbright Fellowship, the Watson Foundation, the Society for Asian Music, the US Department of Education, and the American Institute for Indian Studies.
Vicie A. Rolling– Southern Tier Region. (retired educator, storyteller, writer, arts educator) As a retired Professor of Health and Wellness, Vicie has gone on to more artistic pursuits. She is a “StoryCatcher.” Her avocation is storytelling that includes poetry, short stories, and historical re-enactment. She works as a teaching artist in a variety of settings including, schools, museums, historical societies, churches, and festivals. She has produced two chapbooks and two CDs of poetry and short stories . Vicie has participated in the Culture, Community and the Classroom program of Local Learning, in collaboration with the Arts Council of the Southern Tier as a teaching artist.
For Re-election to a Third Officer Term:
Kay Turner – NYC Region (folklorist, educator, author) Vice President, Board of Directors
Born in Detroit. BA Rutgers University 1971 (Literature/Philosophy), MA/PhD University of Texas Austin 1989 (Folklore/Anthropology). Interim Director, Folk Arts Collections, San Antonio Museum of Art 1982-1984; Co-Founder/Associate Director, Texas Folklife Resources 1984-1991; Folk Arts Director, Brooklyn Arts Council 2000-2014. AFS: member since 1972, Executive Board 2006-2008; Elli Köngäs-Maranda Prize 2000, AFS Fellows 2013, Benjamin Botkin Prize 2013; Women’s, Public Programs, LGBTQA, and Folk Narrative Sections; New York Folklore Society: Board 2011-present; folk arts panels, consultancies, lectures, publications 1979-present. Adjunct Visiting Professor, Performance Studies Department, NYU 2000-present: courses include: women’s folklore, oral narrative theory, urban folklore, pedagogies of the ephemeral, ghost ontologies. Books include: Beautiful Necessity: The Art and Meaning of Women’s Altars, Transgressive Tales: Queering the Grimms (with Pauline Greenhill). Support includes: Woodrow Wilson, NEA, NYSCA, SSHRC, American Express, and MetLife. Public programs/exhibitions: Art Among Us/Arte Entre Nosotros (with Pat Jasper), Brooklyn Maqam: Arab Music Festival; Days of the Dead in Brooklyn: Diverse Traditions of Mourning and Remembrance; Folk Roots of the Black Brooklyn Renaissance, 1960-2010; Harborlore/Sandylore; September 11th Rethinking Memorial Series (2005-2011).
Folk and Traditional Artists pursue an art form or activity that is rooted within their community, family, and/or heritage. This form of artistic expression is often learned over time through repeated experience and purposeful or informal teaching. These one-on-one or apprentice-style relationships are how traditional arts thrive over generations. Apprenticeship Grants through the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) are one of the foundational tools in the field of folklore and folk arts in New York State. Through this program, “master” artists take on one or more apprentices to pass on their skills and knowledge. Apprentices can be other community members or a member of their own family.
Another avenue of support via the New York State Council on the Arts are grants for artists to pursue their own projects and initiatives. This category was new in 2022 for the Folk and Traditional Arts Category of NYSCA. Folk and Traditional artist grants are allowing artists to execute programs, pieces, performances, workshops, etc. on their own.
Following New York State’s $105 million investment in the arts for FY2022, NYSCA has awarded more than $80 million in arts grants to organizations and individual artists since June 2021. Of that over $250,000 has been awarded directly to folk and traditional artists via Individual Artist and Apprenticeship Grants. Over 30 Folk and Traditional Artists in New York State received an apprenticeship or Individual Artist grant for 2022.
Recipients and art forms are various and include:
Luis Cordero, Rosa and Felix Reyes and Edy Cordero, Bachata and Merengue via Long Island Traditions
Juan José Gutiérrez and Juan Gerena, Bomba y Plena via LOS PLENEROS DE LA 21
Clarence “Bucky” Geter and John Walton, Gospel Music via The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes
Richard Koski with Michael Ludgate and Katrina Mackey, Finnish American Dance Music via the The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes
Hayden Haynes and Darelyn Spruce, Seneca Bone Carving via The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes
Victor Manuel Garcia Gonzalez AKA Dindy and Gomany Norales, drum making via HEDco; Bronx Music Heritage Center
Tashi Sharzur (Techung) with Mia and Jasmin Eames, Tibetan music and dance via New York Folklore
Muhammad Ismail Durdi with Muhammad Yousaf and Muhammad Ayoob, Turkmen rug weaving via New York Folklore
Peniel Guerrier with Kayenne Charles-Pierre, Haitian traditional dance via the Center for Traditional Music and Dance
Salieu Suso with Fode Diop, kora West African harp via the Center for Traditional Music and Dance
Individual Artist Grants include the following:
Beareather Reddy for In My Soul
Bonnie Gale for Exploring Willow Casket Making
Altin Stoja for Shining a Light, A Public Art Project in Greek Orthodox iconography.
Nada Odeh for Arabic Calligraphy Workshop and Mural
Melvis Santa for Women Akpwon: Afro-Cuban Percussion and Song Workshops and Performances
Gretchen Koehler for Fiddling with Tradition
Esraa Warda for Rani Mrida Music and Dance Initiative
This is just a sampling of the many traditional arts activities and artists supported in 2022 through the New York State Council on the Arts.
Each year, the Public Programs Section of the American Folklore Society joins with the AFS Executive Board to award the Benjamin A. Botkin Prize. This annual award honors an individual for significant lifetime achievement in public folklore. New York Folklore joins with the folklore community in congratulating North Country folklorist, Varick Chittenden, for receiving this highest honor at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the American Folklore Society, held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
This prize is given in recognition of the work of Benjamin A. Botkin (1901-1975). An eminent New Deal-era folklorist, national folklore editor of the Federal Writers’ Project in 1938-1939, advocate for the public responsibilities of folklorists, author and compiler of many publications on American folklore for general audiences, and head of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress from 1942 to 1945, Botkin had a major impact on the field of public folklore and on the public understanding of folklore.
Prize recipients are nominated by their peers with the following criteria:
- Engagement of a broad public audience in the materials of folklore
- Impact on the field of public folklore: development of models, methodology, visibility, advocacy
- Impact on communities/constituents and their traditional culture
- Contributions to the body of materials of folklore/public folklore
- Quality of their scholarship
- Quality of their public programming and presentations
- Their impact on the discipline of folklore
Varick Chittenden aptly deserves this honor. Here is some of the nomination that was submitted to the American Folklore Society for consideration:
“Varick was born and raised in Northern New York. As a native New Yorker, he has devoted his life’s work to raising the value and understanding of the traditional culture of New York’s North Country. He made his first career as a professor of American Studies and Folklore at the State University of New York at Canton, a school that attracts rural students, those who are first generation college students, and students that are largely from the Adirondack or North Country region. As a professor, he encouraged folklore collecting by his students and focused the lens of folklore and folklore scholarship on his own community. After obtaining a degree from the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Folk Culture (1976), Varick created the Center for North Country Folklife, and the following year he organized the first Festival of North Country Folklife.
Expanding his vision ever wider, Varick founded the non-profit Traditional Arts of Upstate New York (TAUNY) in 1986, as a collecting and presenting organization that now serves as an important cultural organization for the region and for the state. There is no other folklore or folk arts organization that so completely serves the North Country of New York. Today, through his vision, TAUNY is a vibrant arts center that offers folklore and folklife research, exhibitions, ongoing programming, and collections preservation and maintenance. Housed in a former Woolworth’s Five and Dime, the TAUNY Center serves as an important economic driver for the small city of Canton. To read more about their work, visit their website https://tauny.org/
From 2000 until 2020, Varick served as a columnist for the New York Folklore Society’s publication, Voices: the Journal of New York Folklore. In keeping with the original format of the journal and its original column of Upstate/Downstate (for which Benjamin Botkin was the “Downstate” writer), I asked Varick in 1999 to be our “Upstate” columnist (opposite Steve Zeitlin’s “Downstate). For twenty years, Varick graced our journal with his illuminating writing about the North Country, its communities, and its folklore and folk arts.
Varick is an innovator who is a leader for the field of folklore. He has worked to create curriculum connections for North Country folklore with k-12 educators; he has trained folk artists to be better entrepreneurs in a partnership with then- NY Senator Hilary Clinton; and he has created two programs for public recognition of North Country people and landmarks: The North Country Heritage Award and The Register of Very Special Places (RSVP). RSVP has been an influencer for the current Legends and Lore Program of the Pomeroy Foundation, a program that began in New York State but went national in 2019. From its beginning, Varick served as an advisor to this program that provides cast iron “markers” for locations that are connected to local historical and contemporary legend.”
Varick was one of the nation’s pioneers in the movement of focusing on the folklore of one’s own area. In 1979 he wrote that one of the goals of the Center for North Country Folklife was to foster this new movement – “to collect and record the experiences and folk traditions of the North Country; not just for future generations, but for the enjoyment and enrichment of those living here now.” New York State and its North Country have benefited from the visionary leadership of Varick Chittenden. The next time you see him on the streets of St. Lawrence County, give him your congratulations.
Felix Nelson, conducting a dance lesson as part of a Ghanaian drumming and dance residency
as part of the Schoharie River Center’s Middleburgh, NY Advantage Afterschool Program in 2021. Photo by Ellen McHale
Local Learning and New York Folklore are pleased to welcome Mira Johnson to the role of New York State Folklore in Education Network Coordinator. With a doctorate in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning from Penn State University and an M.A. in folklore from the University of Oregon, Mira is excited to bring her expertise from both the fields to the New York Folklore in Education Network.
Due to the growing interest and need to support authentic pathways between diverse tradition bearers and both formal and informal learning spaces, in 2021 Local Learning and New York Folklore partnered to hire a shared staff position at .5 fte who could engage and coordinate our growing folklore education network. We continue to invest in this position to connect and coordinate between sites where Culture, Community, and the Classroom programs have happened, as well as other arts, humanities, and culture activities of New York Folklore. In a recent survey of program participants in Local Learning and educational folklore programs, 84% of the respondents ranked their interest in participating in the New York Folklore in Education Network at the highest level, including participating in hybrid, face to face, and zoom gatherings. Mira will help conceptualize network activities to engage artists and educators from across the state.
As a regional culture specialist for Pennsylvania’s state folklife program, Mira conducted fieldwork with rural and urban folk artists and tradition bearers, and served as the program coordinator at FolkArtPA, Pennsylvania’s statewide folklife program. She later served as the Folk Arts and Education Coordinator at the Pelham Arts Center in Pelham, New York, where she oversaw the folk art performance and workshop series and worked to integrate folk art education into the center’s studio art curriculum.
Mira is also an adjunct assistant professor at Bronx Community College in the English Department and the First Year Seminar Program. She is currently board member and board secretary for New York Folklore. Her research addresses the role of traditional knowledge and ecological relationships in community-based education, as well as regional belief practices.
Mira started in this role September 1, 2021. She will be available at [email protected]
Here we grow again!
As we look towards new projects and programs for 2021 and in the future, New York Folklore is growing – with new leadership and members for the Board of Directors, and with the addition of several new staff members and partnerships.
In partnership with Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education, we are pleased to announce a shared position of Outreach Coordinator to the Folk Arts in Education Network in New York State. Suzanne Kolodziej is an arts educator who brings vast experience to the role. She holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Arts Education and she worked previously as the outreach coordinator for Cornell University’s East Asia Program. Concurrent with her work at Local Learning/New York Folklore, Suzanne also works at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, where she is a Teaching Artist, Museum Educator, and Program Assessor in the Expanded Learning Collaboration with the Rochester City School District.
Due to the concerns with the spread of COVID-19, New York Folklore’s NYSCA Upstate Regional Initiative has gone through some revisions, rendering the ongoing project to be stronger and more connected to community. Because of delays caused by the pandemic, we are also working concurrently to document and conduct folklore fieldwork in more than one region of the state. We are pleased to welcome Anne Rappaport as a full-time staff folklorist to the New York Folklore staff, working within the Mohawk Valley communities of Montgomery, Fulton, Southern Herkimer, Oswego and Southern Hamilton Counties. New York Folklore also welcomes three part-time community fieldworkers to work within Albany and Rensselaer Counties: Ladan Alomar, Khizra Awan, and Edgar Betelu. These talented individuals have complementary skills and interests and they are working together to provide a better portrait of the cultural traditions found within the greater Capital District. New York Folklore will also have an intern beginning in May 2021.
Reyers Brusoe, a graduate student at the University of Kentucky in the department of ethnomusicology/musicology will be interning with New York Folklore during the summer months. New York Folklore’s reach has expanded and we look forward to continuing to serve folk and traditional arts in New York State. Photo of a performance of the Jamestown Swedish Dancers with members of the Allegheny Dancers as part of a program of the Upstate Regional Initiative, 2015. Photo by Ellen McHale