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]
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.
Photo of Carved Birds by Majaliwa D Maulidi. Photo by Ladan Nikravan.
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
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
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.
Driving through upstate New York you are likely to pass barns, houses, and other buildings with large painted squares. Images range from stars, flowers, bear paws, canoes, houses, and even the occasional pineapple!
What are these works hanging on houses, barns & other structures?? They are quilt barn squares!
Quilt Barn Squares are painted on wood and range from a 2’ x 2’ up to an 8’ x 8’ square. Though they also appear smaller in (indoor!) home décor and pins. Designs reflect traditional quilt patterns and influences. Examples of designs are the Mariner’s Compass, Cross Kayaks, and School House Rocks.
The Mayfield Mural was a community effort including the School District, Fire Department and the Fulton Montgomery Quilt Barn Trail
You may spot them all over the state, but the Mohawk Valley has its very own Quilt Barn Trail – The Fulton Montgomery Quilt Barn Trail. Founded by Liz Argotsinger in 2014, the Fulton Montgomery Quilt Barn Trail has grown to over 150 quilt barns. Many of the images along the way are traditional designs with the potential to be replicated on sewing machines.
Creating a square begins by taking a piece of MDO board (medium density overlay) and attaching a frame to the back. This step ensures no screws need to go through the finished front while hanging it. The piece is then primed, painted and the square is ready to be hung!
Along the trail, you will see squares created by Liz, including a traditional square, The Dresden Plate as well as an original square, Hops and Barley, featured at Stump City Brewing in Gloversville, NY.
Hops and Barley at Stump City Brewing in Gloversville. By Liz Argotsinger.
Driving the Fulton Montgomery Quilt Barn Trail is a great way to get out see the beauty of the Mohawk Valley and its artists!
For more information about the Fulton Montgomery Barn Quilt Trail, you can visit their website, Facebook page, or YouTube video.
YouTube: Fulton Montgomery Quilt Barn Trail
Header Image is Reflections by Liz Argotsinger.
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
The Board of Directors of New York Folklore requests your presence at the Annual Meeting of New York Folklore, to take place on Saturday, January 16, 2021 at 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. via Zoom.
The link to attend can be found here:
The meeting agenda will include remarks from outgoing President, Tom van Buren and President-elect Maria Kennedy; a report from Executive Director Ellen McHale; and opportunities to interact with other members and attendees.
Please plan to join us for this celebratory event!
The slate for members and officers of the Board of Directors of New York Folklore is to be presented as follows:
President: Maria Kennedy
Maria Kennedy is the Administrative Director of the New Jersey Folk Festival at Rutgers University. She is a faculty member in the Department of American Studies, where she teaches classes on folklore, public humanities, and supervises student interns on the folk festival’s staff. She previously served as the Folk Arts Coordinator for The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes and worked as a graduate assistant at Traditional Arts Indiana. Her PhD in Folklore at Indiana University examined environmental conservation and agricultural heritage in the United Kingdom, looking at practices of orchard conservation and craft cider making. Maria has lifelong connections to New York state, having grown up visiting her grandparents in the North Country and cousins in the Hudson Valley. She continues her interest in orchards heritage as an avid connoisseur of New York cider.
Treasurer: Jim Hall
Dr. James C. Hall joined RIT in 2014 as the Executive Director for the Center for Multidisciplinary Studies, later renamed the School of Individualized Study. Previously, he was director of New College at Alabama and executive director of the Consortium for Innovative Environments in Learning. Prior to the University of Alabama, Dr. Hall taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Hall completed his Ph.D. and MA in American studies at the University of Iowa. He has also completed a MA in religion and culture and BA in English at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. His research and professional interests include African-American literature as well as higher education innovation and reform.
Evelyn D’Agostino-Sasso, Rochester/Finger Lakes
Evelyn D’Agostino Sasso, formerly of the Republic of Panama, serves the Xerox Corporation as International Logistics Analyst. She currently is board member of HAPA (Hispanic Association for Professional Advancement at Xerox corporation- Rochester Chapter), Rochester La Voz newspaper advisory board, founder of Grupo Cultural Latinos en Rochester, and Artistic Director for Avenue D Afro-Latino Dance Group. She is a graduate of the Catholic University Santa Maria La Antigua of Panama. The organization which Evelyn helped found, Grupo Cultural Latinos En Rochester, was founded in 2013 in the belief that “the arts have a unique power to engage and maintain our Children’s Cultural Heritage.”
Mackenzie Kwok, New York City
Mackenzie Kwok received her Master’s degree in anthropology at the University of Cambridge, England, after completing a BA in American Studies and Folklore at UNC Chapel Hill. She wrote her undergraduate thesis on Asian American Foodways in North Carolina and wrote her Master’s dissertation on Confederate monument toppling, and space-making through chanting. Mackenzie is currently the Community Engagement Director at City Lore in New York City and is a former Bartis Intern for the Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.
Edward Young Jun Millar, Niagara/Western New York
Edward Y. J. Millar is a native of Northern New Jersey, and grew up in a mixed Scottish, German, and Malay-Chinese household. Edward enrolled in the Anthropology and University Honors Program at Seton Hall University in 2008, and received his M.A. in Folklore from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2014. As Curator of Folk Arts at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University, Edward conducts original fieldwork in the Buffalo-Niagara region, and develops exhibits, programs and initiatives in collaboration with community members and traditional artists. As a member of a small staff at a university museum, Edward’s skills and responsibilities have grown to include not only fieldwork, program and exhibit development, and content creation typical of the position, but also: audio and video editing, multimedia production, graphic design, preparatory work, framing, lighting, construction, and exhibit installation.
Wilfredo Morel, Peekskill/Hudson Valley (renewal for a third, two-year term)
Wilfredo Morel is a highly acclaimed artist known for his sculptures utilizing recycled materials, related to the communities where the materials are found. Morel is also a community relations professional at Sun River Health Care, where he assists migrant workers, HIV/AIDS patients and the LGBT population with health care disparities, concerns and needs.
William Walker, Cooperstown/Mohawk Valley
William S. Walker is associate professor of history at the Cooperstown Graduate Program. He is the author of A Living Exhibition: The Smithsonian and the Transformation of the Universal Museum and editor of The Inclusive Historian’s Handbook (inclusivehistorian.com). An active public historian, Professor Walker oversees CGP Community Stories, an ongoing oral history project that uses recorded narratives to initiate public dialogue programs on critical social and environmental issues. His areas of expertise are public history, 20th-century U.S. cultural and intellectual history, and the history of race and ethnicity, especially as related to museums. He is committed to equity and inclusion in the field, and his courses emphasize building anti-racist and anti-oppression knowledge and skills.