Folk Artists Benefit from Individual Artists’ Grants from the New York State Council on the Arts

Folk Artists Benefit from Individual Artists’ Grants from the New York State Council on the Arts

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:

Apprenticeships 

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.

36th Annual Folk Arts Roundtable

36th Annual Folk Arts Roundtable

Our 36th annual Roundtable has officially wrapped! This year we were joined by 35 of our colleagues at the Hotel Syracuse, the Roundtable’s Birthplace. It is poetic that while revisiting the Roundtable’s roots we welcomed a record number of new peers. We are thrilled to have folks representing organizations like Imamou Lele, Big Eyed Enterprises, and JouvayFest in our New York Folklore family.  

Monday morning began with a workshop hosted with Local Learning and led by teaching artists Juan Gutierrez-Rodriguez and Julia Gutierrez-Rivera of Los Pleneros de la 21. Juan and Julia started with an energetic demonstration of the Bomba y Plena and ended with discussions of best practices for artists. Folklorists brainstormed ways to support a network of Folk Arts in Education in New York.  

In the afternoon we dove into our Roundtable tradition, What We’re Doing Presentations. Presentations took place over Monday and Tuesday. Monday’s sessions were followed by a conversation about the state of the field in New York, led by New York Folklore board members; Kay Turner and Maria Kennedy. The Roundtable’s first day came to a close at a delicious group dinner at Eritrea Ethiopian Restaurant 

We were honored to be guests of the Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center, in Liverpool on Tuesday. At the Center, Frieda Jacques a clan mother from the Onondaga nation kept our group at rapt attention with her tour. Frieda’s tour was followed by Tim Frandy’s presentation on working with Indigenous communities. After a second round of What We’re Doing Presentation, roundtablers headed to an impromptu group dinner at Salt City Market – complete with a presentation by market staff about the good work by Allyn Family Foundation and Salt City Market. Thank you to roundtabler, artist, and Syracuse resident Nada Odeh for organizing the dinner.  

As we prepared to part ways on Wednesday, the Roundtable concluded with a discussion of advocacy, and strategy concerning forward movement as a field, as well as statewide initiatives by groups like Local Learning, Long Island Traditions, and of course New York Folklore’s Technical Assistance program and Voices. Remember Rountablers: Spread the word about the services that New York Folklore can provide to traditional and folk practitioners!   

For more information about Technical Assistance or Voices, please contact New York Folklore. For more information about self-guided audio tours by Travel Storys contact Nancy Soloman at Long Island Traditions.  

Thank you to everyone who joined us in person and virtually! We are looking forward to the next Roundtable in the spring of 2022 back in Syracuse!  

North Country Folklorist, Varick Chittenden Receives the Prestigious Benjamin A Botkin Award from the American Folklore Society

North Country Folklorist, Varick Chittenden Receives the Prestigious Benjamin A Botkin Award from the American Folklore Society

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.

 

 

Welcome to Mira Johnson as the New York Folklore in Education Network Coordinator

Welcome to Mira Johnson as the New York Folklore in Education Network Coordinator

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]

Mohawk Hudson Folklife Festival

Mohawk Hudson Folklife Festival

The Capital District (Albany and Rensselaer Counties) Upstate Regional Initiative is ending with a BANG this Fall. On October 3rd from Noon to 5 pm join us in Albany’s Washington Park at the Lake House Amphitheater for the Mohawk Hudson Folklife Festival. The festival will feature the artists, tradition bearers and musicians identified by our Community Fieldworkers Ladan Nikravan, and Edgar Betelu.  

Artists will display and demonstrate their work throughout the day for visitors to engage and participate. Demonstrations will include; African Hair Braiding, Iconography, Wood Carving and more!  Adults and children will have the chance to try their hand at crafts inspired by these traditions in workshops and activities. 

Woodcarved bluebirds

Photo of Carved Birds by Majaliwa D Maulidi. Photo by Ladan Nikravan.

Chinese papercut of an ox

Chinese Papercut by Anping Liu. Photo by Anne Rappaport

Musical performances by the Wa Lika Band and Mundeo Nuevo will bring the day to a close starting at 3pm! See the full performance schedule below.  

11:30 am Washington Park Drummers  

12 pm – 1pm  Karen (Myanmar) Harp by Pinya Aung   

1 pm –2pm Mixed Roots  

2 pm – 3pm Pakastani Music by Shaman Awan and Aurelius John  

3pm – 4pm Wa Lika Band  

4 pm – 5pm Mundo Nuevo 

The full festival program is available here: Mohawk Hudson Folklife Festival Program

Patrick sits at keyboard and plays

Photo of Mbaya Patrick Kasongo of Wa Lika Band. Photo Courtesy of the Artist. 

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. The initiative continues in 2021 in the Mohawk Valley  

The Hye and the Losh:  Foodways at St. Peter’s Armenian Apostolic Church, Watervliet, NY

The Hye and the Losh: Foodways at St. Peter’s Armenian Apostolic Church, Watervliet, NY

In May and June 2021, I had the opportunity to share in food, fellowship, and history with members of the Armenian community at St. Peter’s. The relatively secluded church is a thriving cultural center for many Armenians in the Upper Hudson and Mohawk Valleys. As I drove up Assepian Avenue on the way to the Church, I felt that I was leaving my world behind, as the busy highways and traffic were replaced with a welcoming committee of trees and greenery, which opened to reveal the magnificent church building. In front of the church is a small memorial garden and monument erected in the memory of those who died in the Armenian Genocide, a tragic holocaust that remains an indelible and defining aspect of Armenian identity and heritage.

As soon as I got out of my car, I could hear the sounds of community. The men, who are members of the Knights of Vartan fraternal organization, began to prepare the large pit grills for cooking chicken and Hye burgers. In the distance, the tinkle of dishes and excited voices sounded from the kitchen in the lower floor of the Church building. The sounds mingled with the perfumes of cooking spices, baking sweets, and charcoal smoke, as the grills were warmed to start the festivities for the Friday Flavors of Armenia.

According to Paulette Doudoukjian, wife of St. Peter’s Church pastor, Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, this is the church’s second year of running the Friday Flavors of Armenia series. Since 1910, St. Peter’s has put on an Armenian festival every June, as a celebration of summer, Armenian food, faith, and culture. In normal years the festival would run for two days, and would feature vendors, musicians, dancers, and an incredible variety of foods both savory and sweet. Like many other church and cultural celebrations, the festival was shut down for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, just shy of the festival’s 110th anniversary. As a testament to Armenian perseverance, Paulette and the other members of the Women’s Guild came up with a novel idea: a drive-thru festival that would allow them to continue serving the Armenian and non-Armenian communities, while maintaining social distancing and mitigating the spread of the virus as much as possible. The new variation, Friday Flavors of Armenia, was a success, and the drive-thru option may remain as a fixture after the pandemic is over.

Although the menu was somewhat reduced, the flavors and the quality of the food were still top notch. Each week featured two entrees: an Armenian Chicken Dinner and a Hye Burger Platter.

The Hye Burger is made from a mixture of beef, lamb, spices and aromatics. According to Sonya Moroukian, a master baker and one of the cooks for the festival, this dish is a great way to introduce people to Armenian flavor profiles, especially for those who may not like an all-lamb main course. The Hye Burger is a fusion version of the Losh Kebab, which in normal years would be grilled right alongside the burgers. What makes this burger extra special is that it is served with an Armenian coleslaw of purple cabbage, carrots, and a proprietary dressing that adds a kick to the burger itself. The Armenian Chicken is marinated in a yogurt sauce, similar to tzatziki.

To accompany these dishes, the Women’s Guild makes an incredible rice pilaf. The secret, according to Paulette and her colleagues, is in its simplicity. The pilaf is made with butter, pepper, rice, chicken stock, and egg noodles. As Paulette was explaining the process of how to make the pilaf, she and her son Jonah were mixing the dish in large industrial-size pans—large enough to feed an entire village.

Aside from the entrees, the women also put together incredible desserts and a la carte items. For this year’s festivals, the women, under the direction of Sonya Moroukian, have made trays upon trays of Paklava (also spelled Baklava) and Kadayif. These classic desserts are staples of Armenian food culture.

For the Paklava, the bakers roll out and layer phyllo dough, nuts, and spices in large sheet pans. Depending on who is baking them, there can be multiple layers of nuts. After baking to a golden brown color, the Paklava is then doused with a simple syrup made of water, sugar, and lemon juice that brightens and highlights the rich flavors of the pastry.

According to Serena Moroukian and her mother Sonya, making Paklava together as a family is a rite of passage for a young woman, given the difficulty of folding and preparing the pastry dough, and layering everything together. Depending on the occasion, the dough is sometimes store bought, or it may be made from scratch, an arduous process. Leftovers from the baklava trays are sometimes crushed up and mixed with ice cream to make Baklava Sundaes, which are another major treat.

Kadayif is a creamy dessert made with a sweetened, cream cheese-like filling, shredded phyllo dough and simple syrup. This dessert takes patience to bake and also freezes well.

The last dish on the menu is Eech (pronounced similarly to the English word each). It is a hearty food that is made of cracked bulgur wheat, onions, tomato sauce, (occasionally) stock, spices, and a topping usually made from sweet and/or spicy peppers and parsley. This dish demonstrates a part of the wide variety of food that is found in Armenia, based on the terroir and availability of ingredients in different regions. Each is a vegan dish and can be enjoyed hot, cold, or room temperature. It can be eaten alone, as a salad accompanying a meal, or as Raffi Moroukian lovingly described, as a breakfast dish mixed with scrambled eggs.

I am incredibly grateful to the members of St. Peter’s Armenian Church community for allowing me to talk to them, to learn about their culinary culture, and to share in the enjoyment of food with them. A special thank you to Lori Payette at the parish office, Fr. Stepanos and Presbytera Paulette Doudoukjian, Sonya, Serena and Raffi Moroukian, and the members of the St. Peter’s Women’s Guild for their generosity, friendliness, and willingness to talk about their culture.