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
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.
Gratitude. That is a difficult word to embrace this year, as we collectively battled a pandemic, a tumultuous election, and the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives – some of whom were friends, neighbors, and family. However, I would like to take this moment to thank everyone who has been a part of New York Folklore this past year – in no particular order!
- New York Folklore was fortunate to be able to draw upon the expertise of colleagues and artists to move programming online. Early in the pandemic, New York Folklore inaugurated a daily series – May 2020: 20 Folk Artists in 20 Days – in which we were able to present the diversity of folk culture found in New York State. This series was partly educational for staff at New York Folklore, as we sought new ways of reaching people in the virtual space. I am grateful for the many artists and fellow folk culture professionals who paired up to present folk arts from every end of our vast state. If you missed the series, you can re-visit it on our vimeo channel: https://vimeo.com/showcase/7104335
- With help from Elinor Levy, Outreach Coordinator for Mentoring and Professional Development, the talented Karen Berelowitz helped us launch a virtual Business 101 series for folk and traditional artists that was so successful that we ran it again! Her down to earth presentations were augmented by the performing arts acumen of Dave Ruch, and arts education expertise of Lisa Rathje of Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts Education. We are grateful for the “sold-out” nature of the workshops, and for the many artists who were introduced to New York Folklore through the series. We received overwhelmingly positive reviews from participants who remarked upon the importance of interacting with fellow folk and traditional artists from throughout the state.
- New York Folklore has joined forces, and resources, with Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education, to create a shared half-time Folk Arts Education Network Coordinator position. Applications are being accepted now for a position that will begin in January. The job description and information on how to apply can be found here: https://www.locallearningnetwork.org/we-are-hiring/
We are excited that our organization is once-again in a growth mode and that we will be able to provide enhanced opportunities for artists and educators in New York State!
- New York Folklore is governed by an increasingly diverse board of directors who are passionate and pro-actively pursuing the health and vitality of New York’s folk cultural landscape. Our annual meeting which will include an election of new board members and officers will take place on Saturday, January 16, 2021 at noon. We hope you’ll plan to attend! To register, please follow this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_tMYErAGvSYipnzM6rcabwg
I want to thank outgoing board members Julie Tay (NYC) and board treasurer, John Braungard (Capital District) for their many years of service on behalf of New York Folklore. I also want to express my appreciation for the six years of Presidential leadership by Tom van Buren who will remain on the board in the “past President” role. On January 16th we will formally elect new officers and members, including Maria Kennedy as the incoming President and Jim Hall (Rochester) as our new NYF treasurer. They will be joined by new board members Evelyn D’Agostino Sasso (Rochester); MacKenzie Kwok (NYC); William Walker (Cooperstown); Ed Millar (Niagara); and renewing board member, Wilfredo Morel (Peekskill). Please join us for this joyous occasion!
- New York Folklore staff, Ellen McHale and Laurie Longfield, are joined in their work by those who provide specific programmatic expertise, including Acquisitions Editor Todd DeGarmo and Editorial Assistant, Patti Mason; Elinor Levy, folklorist and outreach coordinator for our Mentoring and Professional Development Program; and this years Upstate Regional Fieldworkers – Khizra Awan, Ladan Alomar, and Anne Rappaport – who will be continuing to document Albany and Rensselaer Counties in 2021. These programs and partnerships will continue in 2021 with the addition of increased activities around advocacy for folklore and folk arts collections and archives, increased support for building support networks for artists around New York State, and a new e-commerce site to extend the reach of our gallery to a much wider public. Look for these developments in the new year!
New York Folklore is dedicated to supporting the work of artists, community leaders, and folk arts professionals to better understand, to recognize, and to amplify the significant contributions that folk and traditional culture has for the state and the nation. We are ALWAYS happy to welcome you to our ever-widening circles of activity. If you haven’t joined us already, please consider it today!
The headline photo is from July 2019, with a visit from Kyrgyz students pictured here (Aselia, Vera, and Nurbolot) and leaders (Anisa Mambetalieva and Nazgul Akylbek Kyzy of Youth of Osh of Kyrgyzstan, as part of an international exchange program betweenYouth of Osh and New York Folklore, with support form World Learning through a grant from the US State Department. Pictured New York youth participants include Ula, Saoirse, Corey, and New York Folklore Staff Ellen McHale and Kira Born. Photo by Nurbolot Esenbek.
The Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a celebration that spans centuries. In its trajectory through the ages, the celebration has received influences from indigenous peoples, Catholicism, regional differences, and the creativity of those who construct the ofrenda, or altar.
Several elements are typically included on an ofrenda. Photographs of the departed are the centerpiece, as the ofrenda is built to honor and to invite those who have passed to the other world. These photos of the deceased are displayed alongside candles, saints’ pictures, skulls, offerings of food and drink, marigolds, incense, paper cut-outs or papel picado, salt, personal items, crosses, nuts and seeds, and water.
A special bread, pan de muertos, is provided to the deceased and to the living who visit an ofrenda. Pan de muertos is an essential element that has been recorded as originating in the 16th century contact between Spanish and Aztec civilizations. José Luis Curiel Monteagudo, in his book Azucarados Afanes, Dulces y Panes, says, “To eat pan de muertos is for the Mexican a true pleasure, considering the cannibalism of bread and sugar. The phenomena is treated with respect and irony. Defying death, they make fun of her by eating it.” As with the pan de Muertos, each of the items on the ofrenda have their own symbolism that relate to the deceased and their journey back to the living realm.
The three-day celebration of Día de los Muertos takes place on October 31, November 1, and November 2. In New York State, several celebrations are planned in many different locations. A few locations are the following:
- New York Folklore, 129 Jay Street, Schenectady presents an ofrenda, designed by community advocate Ana Lorena Diana, with support from the Schenectady Initiative Program and the Upstate Theater Coalition for a Fair Game. New York Folklore’s ofrenda will be available for viewing from October 31 through November 7, 2020.
- Glow Traditions, in Western New York, invites the public to their ofrenda which will be on view from October 27th through November 1 at the Mariachi de Oro Mexican Grill in Medina, NY, in collaboration with Leonel Rosario. In addition, visitors are invited to the virtual celebration and resource page at https://www.goart.org/glow-traditions/
- Arts Mid-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, is partnering with the Poughkeepsie Public Library and the City of Poughkeepsie for Día de los Muertos programming. Information and a calendar of events can be found at the Poughkeepsie Public Library https://poklib.org/day-of-the-dead-celebration-celebracion-del-dia-de-los-muertos/
- ArtsWestchester, in collaboration with with Edgar and Juana E. Pinyol and the White Plains Public Library, presented Dia De Los Muertos, a program featuring artists from the Mexican, Paraguayan, Bolivian, Ecuadorian, Guatemalan, and Peruvian communities of Peekskill and White Plains. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUvO9A8uH-c&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2vjlvfGiqWUmINMLzIHYDvnNWrxYrkMfyHTTeD0jeCoc6pkdZZxgxe20A
- Bronx Documentary Center and Mano a Mano: Mexican Culture Without Borders, 614 Cortland Avenue Bronx, NY have created a special “COVID-19” ofrenda, dedicated to those who have lost their lives to COVID-19.
Finally, visit the web-pages of NYSCA Living Traditions to view videos and other programmatic materials related to Día de los Muertos in New York, including building an ofrenda and making a traditional Oaxacan sand painting.
For more information or to view images and/or videos relating to Día de los Muertos, visit this beautiful visual documentary site of Dane Strom:
Image courtesy of Aurelia Fernandez
Starting on Monday, September 7 and running through Friday, September 11, people throughout the country will create grassroots memorials dedicated to naming the lost who have died from Covid-19. In homes and yards, on street corners and stoops, in cities from Portland to Austin to Brooklyn, these memorials make our grief visible. This “labor of mourning” is initiated by Naming the Lost Memorials, a group of artists, activists, and folklorists who have been making public awareness memorials in New York City since May. They invite people everywhere to join them in making memorials during the week that begins with Labor Day on September 7 and ends with the 19th anniversary of September 11, 2001, when spontaneous memorials arose throughout New York City in response to the deaths of nearly 3,000 New Yorkers in the attack on the World Trade Center.
As the United States nears 200,000 deaths due to Covid-19, Naming the Lost Memorials sees grassroots memorials filling a real need. “There has been no national day of mourning set aside for the Covid dead,” says folklorist Kay Turner. “So many people died alone, and burials and rituals have been deferred. While heads of state do not perform their solemn duties to comfort the afflicted and mourn the dead, the rest of us rise to confront this tragedy.”
Born in New York City, Frank DeCaro was a Professor of Folklore in the English Department of Louisiana State University from 1971-2004. He was the first Chair of the Louisiana Folklife Commission and was the editor of “The Louisiana Folklife Miscellany”. He was much loved by his fellow folklorists for his humor and generosity. He had a distinguished career as a folklorist. He died from COVID-19 in March 2020. We mourn his passing.
Those who are interested in participating in Naming the Lost Memorials can visit www.namingthelost.com/memorials to learn how to make a memorial, find public resources for researching names and stories of the dead, submit photos and videos to the archive, and more. During the week of creation, participants are invited to share their photos and videos using the hashtags #namingthelostmemorials and #namingthelost.
“Creating the memorials has been a way to recognize and honor those who have been lost, but also a way to connect us as a community as we work with artists, activists and scholars on this project–finding ways to not feel alone, to contribute and give back to our communities and lastly, to give voice to our disappointment, anger, and sadness concerning the way this crisis has been handled by those in a power,” said Elena Martinez, volunteer organizer of Naming the Lost Memorials.
Yitzhak Levy-Awami of Brooklyn, (on the left) was a wonderful dance teacher of Yemeni Dance traditions who participated in folk arts programs of the Brooklyn Arts Council. He worked for 28 years as a Paraprofessional for the New York City Department of Education, working for 25 of those years at P.S. 205 Clarion in Brooklyn, NY. We mourn his passing.
In Schenectady, New York Folklore invites people to visit their memorial at 129 Jay Street, Schenectady from September 9 – September 11, 2020. We invite anyone to post a photograph or other remembrance to honor a loved one lost to COVID-19.
In creating these memorials, we invite you to join us, in the labor of mourning.
Calvin Kaintuck of Elmont, NY learned to ride horses in Baltimore, MD and started out as a “hot-walker” in the stables of the Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore. He served in World War II, and when he returned from the war he studied electrical engineering. He made a career at Sylvania Electric in Oyster Bay, NY, all the while continuing to ride as an exercise rider at the Belmont and Aqueduct Racetracks. When interviewed for the Library of Congress in 2012, he was riding for trainer Cleveland Johnson, although he was 93 years old at the time. He died from COVID-19 in April 2020. We mourn his passing.
On May 1, 2020, New York Folklore and folklore programs across New York State will launch a collaboration to present traditional arts and culture from throughout New York State. Each weekday in May, from 4:00 -4:30 p.m., traditional arts activities will be presented through a livestream from New York Folklore’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/New-York-Folklore-76410462500/
“May 2020: 20 Folk Artists/20 Days” amplifies the artistic excellence found within New York’s communities. To view this daily initiative, simply tune in to New York Folklore’s Facebook page each weekday in May from 4:00 – 4:30 p.m. to experience a free, live-streamed event by one of New York State’s folk artists or tradition bearers.
The initiative showcases the artistic excellence and diversity of traditional arts and culture in New York State. Folk arts and cultural expressions are nurtured and perpetuated within communities. They are shared by those who have common regional affiliations, ethnic heritage, occupations, avocational interests, gender, and many other identifiers of interconnection. Artistic excellence is determined by a shared community aesthetic with innovation occurring within the bounds of the interests and concerns of the shared community.
Partners: Coordinating and partnering organizations from throughout New York State include the following: New York State Fiddlers Hall of Fame, Glow Traditions, Long Island Traditions, Los Pleneros de la 21, Arts Mid-Hudson, Brooklyn Arts Council, Arts Westchester, Center for Traditional Music and Dance, Rochester Institute of Technology, and The Association for Cultural Equity (ACE). Presenting folklorists and cultural scholars include Karen Canning, Andrew Cowell, Hannah Davis, Julia Gutíerrez-Rivera, Elinor Levy, Jorge Arévalo Mateus, Ellen McHale, Chris Mulé, Aaron Paige, Naomi Sturm-Wijesinghe, Emily Socolov, Valerie Walawender, and Christine Zinni.