NYSCA New York State Folk Arts Roundtable in Utica

NYSCA New York State Folk Arts Roundtable in Utica

This year’s NYSCA New York State Folk Arts Roundtable took place in Utica from April 3-5. The NYSCA New York State Folk Arts Roundtable is a professional development meeting and convening that draws the state’s folklorists and traditional arts professionals for three days of issue-focused meetings and professional development presentations in a Roundtable format. Each attendee is an active participant, sharing their own experiences and expertise in thematic sessions. In 2019, Roundtable themes included foodways and arts in education, including both k-12 education as well as strategies for engaging a diverse adult audience with arts learning. The NYSCA New York State Folk Arts Roundtable is a program of the Folk Arts Program of NYSCA, planned each year in collaboration with New York Folklore.

Since 2012, the Roundtable has been located each year in different communities around New York State, taking advantage of the opportunities accorded by different regions and urban areas in New York State to delve into traditional arts and cultural expressions. In each location, participants of the Roundtable are presented with best practices for folk arts engagement. In Utica, participants of the Roundtable visited the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees to learn about Utica’s unique experience with refugee resettlement. They explored the city’s diverse foodways offerings, and discussed arts in education with Lisa Rathje of Local Learning : the National Network for Folk Arts in Education.

Roundtablers enjoy a meal at Karam’s Middle East Bakery

This year’s 36 attendees came from throughout New York State, with special invited guests being Millie Rahn of the Lowell National Folk Festival in Lowell, Massachusetts, and Lisa Rathje of Local Learning. Participants of the NYSCA New York State Folk Arts Roundtable are folklorists and cultural arts professionals who work within folk arts contexts in arts agencies, museums, libraries, and university settings. They form a vibrant folk arts network that helps to elevate folk cultural expressions throughout New York.

New York Folklore Opens Inaugural Exhibit

New York Folklore Opens Inaugural Exhibit

New York Folklore opened its exhibition gallery with an exhibition of ebru paintings by Hatice Erbas-Sorkunlu. Hatice Erbas-Sorkunlu is an ebru artist originally from Turkey, currently living in Buffalo. Hatice studied the traditional Turkish tile art of çini at university, and during her studies became interested in ebru. Hatice learned to do ebru while living in Istanbul and later taught traditional Turkish arts to international students at Fasl-ı Bahar, an Islamic College. Hatice has been practicing ebru for 6 years. For this exhibition, Hatice is exhibiting ten framed pieces that illustrate different ebru techniques, with some incorporating Turkish paper cutting.

Erbas-Sorkunlu provided a hands-on ebru workshop for the public and she was in attendance for the exhibition’s opening reception. Her travel and her participatory workshop were made possible by a grant from the Schenectady Initiative Program. The exhibit will be on view through Labor Day 2019.

New York Folklore underwent extensive renovations and building upgrades to open its new exhibition gallery at the end of March. A grant from the William Gundry Broughton Charitable Foundation provided funds to conduct renovations that included floor repair, painting, carpet installation, and the addition of upgraded ambient and track lighting. As part of New York Folklore’s rebranding efforts, the upgrade also included a new sign for the building’s façade.

NYSCA and NYF Collaborate on Upstate Regional Initiative

NYSCA and NYF Collaborate on Upstate Regional Initiative

New York Folklore says a fond farewell to Hannah Davis, who has been our Upstate Regional Representative for the past three years. Her work with us wraps up this month, with a maple presentation at the Rome Art Center. In February, Hannah presented two programs in conjunction with the Munson Williams Art Institute in Utica. The first, taking place at Utica’s First Friday, highlighted the coffee and tea traditions of Utica’s Dominican, Lebanese, and Bosnian communities and the second took place as part of the Munson Williams Proctor “Art Alive” program and highlighted four fine Oneida and Onondaga artists:

Chris Thomas, Beaver Clan – Singer

Adah Shenandoah, Wolf Clan – Dancer

Cameron Shenandoah, Wolf Clan – Dancer

Brittany Ninham, Turtle Clan – Dancer

The Upstate Regional Initiative is a program initiated by the Folk Arts Program of the New York State Council on the Arts. The project was developed to conduct field documentation and programming in counties underserved by the Folk Arts program of NYSCA, with the goal to serve as a catalyst for community based projects and to identify artists and cultural traditions within these regions. In the three years of Hannah’s documentation (2015-2018), she traversed eleven New York Counties, including Cattaraugus, Chatauqua, Tompkins, Cayuga, Seneca, Yates, Allegheny, Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, Broome, and the cities of Binghamton, Rochester, Utica, and Rome. The fourth and final year of this documentation project takes place in 2019 with survey work being conducted in Madison, Cortland, Chenango, and Otsego Counties.

New Staff for the New Year

New Staff for the New Year

As New York Folklore embarks on new projects and programs in 2019, I am pleased to welcome two new additions to our staff. Kira Born is not new to our organization, as she (along with Chibuikem Ajulu-Okeke) designed and wrote our new website. However, Kira is transitioning in 2019 from “intern” to marketing coordinator, continuing to work with New York Folklore to bring her expertise in graphic design, digital photography and video, and media production to help New York Folklore better tell its story. Kira is a graduate of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, where she majored in Communication and Information Design.

Elinor Levy also joins our staff in 2019 as New York Folklore’s New York regional coordinator for the Mentoring and Professional Development program, a partnership program with the Folk Arts Program of the New York State Council on the Arts. Elinor will assist New York Folklore in publicizing the Mentoring and Professional Development Program in the lower Hudson Valley and New York Metropolitan regions, and will be the point of contact for potential mentoring applicants in these regions. Elinor is the Folk Arts Program Manager for Arts Mid-Hudson in Poughkeepsie. She has worked as a folklorist in many locations throughout the United States, including New Jersey and Las Vegas, Nevada. She holds a Ph.D. in Folklore from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

As we are a statewide organization, we strive to be present in communities throughout the state. We hope to see YOU in this coming year!

Stable Views

Stable Views

My introduction to the racetrack and its world of racing began in 1996, as I was asked by the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, New York, to conduct an ethnographic study of the “backstretch”. I received an Archie Green Fellowship in Occupational Folklore from the Folklife Center of the Library of Congress in 2012, which allowed me to expand my research beyond New York State to include racetracks and stables in Kentucky, Florida, and Louisiana. The entire project resulted in a traveling exhibition and a book published by the University Press of Mississippi, Stable Views: Stories and Voices from the Thoroughbred Racetrack (2015).

The thoroughbred racetrack serves as a centerpiece of a unique world of work, with specialized roles and tasks, specific language and vocabulary, rituals, and a shared knowledge and history among the people who make the race meets occur. Those who work at the racetrack in its various roles make up a distinctive occupational folk group.

For my research, I sought to interview individuals in as many different occupational roles as possible, and to especially seek out individuals who had long time family involvement in thoroughbred horseracing. I interviewed those who worked directly with the horses, especially those who were part of small stables of fewer than twenty horses. A trend towards the involvement of entire families in racetrack professions permeates the entire racing world. As an Archie Green Fellow, I encountered many instances of spouses, children, and other members of a worker’s extended family working within the backstretch or in allied occupations. Such is the case with farrier Ray Amato and his family:

“I’m just shy of 80 years old and I’m still working which is very odd in this business…
After I learned and got on my own and got going and established pretty good in the industry,
my dad taught my brother Tony
Then I taught my brother Paddy.
Then I taught my son, Ray, Jr.
And I taught by nephew Chris.
And they’re all doing good too. Good horseshoers… Only in the thoroughbred industry and they turned out to be good horseshoers.” 1

-Ray Amato

Sources Cited:
McHale, Ellen. 2015. Stable Views: Stories and Voices from the Thoroughbred Racetrack.
Jackson: University Press of Mississippi

Interview with Ray Amato, Florida, 2012.