Folk Arts Education in K-12 Educational Settings

Folk Arts Education in K-12 Educational Settings

Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education has been doing innovative work in New York State through its annual Culture, Community and the Classroom workshops.   The Culture, Community and the Classroom workshops take place over several days, during which artists and teachers explore curriculum connections with regional folklore and folk arts, guided by Local Learning Staff –  Dr. Lisa Rathje (Executive Director of Local Learning) and Paddy Bowman (founder of Local Learning).  Skills imparted in the workshops are then utilized by participating folk and traditional artists through presentations within k-12 school settings, with artists and teachers working directly with students to engage them with hands-on activities. Through these annual workshops, more than one hundred artists have received professional development to further their skills in presenting their traditional art and culture and more than twenty-five school districts have been impacted by and benefited from teacher/artist pairings.  Workshops have taken place in consecutive years in Buffalo (2018), LeRoy (2019), and Corning (2020), in conjunction with Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), regional folklorists, and educators.  In 2021, Culture, Community and the Classroom, will be presented in Broome County, in partnership with the Broome Tioga BOCES.

Because of this ground-breaking folklore in education work, New York Folklore Executive Director, Ellen McHale, and Local Learning Executive Director, Lisa Rathje, have identified a need to provide further professional development and technical assistance to artists and educators, and to help grow the capacity for folk arts education in New York State.  This professional development initiative will take place in addition to and as an extension of the annual Culture, Community and the Classroom workshops. Through the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts, Local Learning and New York Folklore are partnering to provide a shared and designated employee to further the work initiated by Local Learning.  To read about the job specifications and duties, or to APPLY, please follow this link:  https://www.locallearningnetwork.org/we-are-hiring/

New York Folklore has initiated as special membership level at New York Folklore that will directly support this arts education initiative.  We have named this after folklorist and educator, Edith Cutting.   Born in 1918, Edith Cutting grew up in Essex County, town of Lewis, on a small family farm. She attended the New York State College for Teachers, where in 1936 she enrolled in an elective course in American Folklore, taught by Dr. Harold W. Thompson, a founder of the New York Folklore Society.  As an educator, Edith Cutting made her career as a secondary school teacher, teaching in Ellenburg, DeRuyter, and Dryden, NY before taking a position at Johnson City High School, where she taught for the majority of her career from 1949-1975.  A High School English teacher, Edith Cutting instituted the Johnson City High School’s Folk Festival, engaging students in exploring their own folklore and cultural traditions.  She also wrote and published several works for young readers, drawing on folklore materials.  Notable for New York Folklore, Edith Cutting served as the Secretary of the Board of the New York Folklore Society at its inception during the presidency of Harold Thompson, and was instrumental in the Society’s founding in 1944.  It is appropriate, therefore, that New York Folklore recognizes Edith Cutting’s  interests in folklore and education through an Edith Cutting membership.  To directly support the Folklore in Education initiative, please visit our membership page at https://nyfolklore.org/about-new-york-folklore/membership/

New Yorkers Honor the Dead through Día de los Muertos

New Yorkers Honor the Dead through Día de los Muertos

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.

https://nytraditions.org/digital-heritage/dia-de-los-muertos-ofrendaday-dead-ofrenda

https://nytraditions.org/digital-heritage/oaxacan-sand-painting-dia-de-los-muertosday-dead

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:

https://danestrom.com/day-of-the-dead-altar-meaning-jalisco-mexico/

Image courtesy of Aurelia Fernandez

New York Folklore Distributes Relief Funds for Artists Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic

New York Folklore Distributes Relief Funds for Artists Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic

New York Folklore is pleased to announce the disbursement of funds totaling $11,000.00 to benefit folk and traditional artists in New York State. These funds are made possible through  the generosity of donors from throughout the United States, including support from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation as well as many private donors.  Private donations were received  through a Go Fund Me Campaign for COVID-19 Relief for Folk and Traditional Artists in New York State.

Thanks to a successful campaign, grant funds of $500.00 or $250.00 will be distributed to twenty-five folk and traditional artists across the state, with each  of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Economic Development Regions of the State being represented by a grant to at least one artist.  The artists chosen represent diverse cultural groups.  They are practicing traditional art that reflects one’s location or one’s membership in a specific population group of New Yorkers.  Haudenosaunee artists were awarded funds, with support going to those who are known for their beadwork, bone and antler carving, traditional music and dance, and splint ash basketmaking from Seneca, Tuscarora, Oneida, Onondaga, and Mohawk nations.   Artists continuing cultural traditions from Puerto Rico, Peru, Mexico, Ireland, Guinea, Ghana, Turkey, Argentina, China, The Republic of Georgia, Algeria, and Tibet received support, as did artists who make art stemming from the African American experience (hair design, gourd instruments, quilting), Adirondack rustic furniture making, and the LGBTQ tradition of ballroom/runway.

Located in Schenectady, New York Folklore works to nurture traditional arts and culture in New York State through education, support, and outreach. New York Folklore envisions a world where the diverse traditions of New York State are fully recognized, appreciated, and supported.  This COVID-19 initiative by New York Folklore recognizes that folk artists who rely on work in the gig economy are suffering greatly during the pandemic. The loss of income is especially prevalent during the summer months, as during this time New York’s communities stage outdoor events focused upon their own community cultural expressions, providing one-time fees for artists’ participation.  The widespread cancellation of performances, festivals, exhibitions, and teaching opportunities has directly impacted New York’s folk and traditional artists.

Taylor Swift Asks us to Reflect on the meaning of “folklore”

Taylor Swift Asks us to Reflect on the meaning of “folklore”

The July 23, 2020 release of Taylor Swift’s new album, Folklore, begs the question, “What is folklore?”.  Refinery 29, the media and entertainment company dedicated to women’s perspectives, asks, “what does folklore mean anyway?”  Natalie Morin, writing for Refinery 29, explains that “folklore is the traditional customs preserved among a community, like stories, legends, songs, sayings, dances and popular beliefs,” and also “folklore is a belief that’s been widely circulated and well-known without any supporting evidence.”  (Morin, Refinery 29, July 23, 2020).

As the Executive Director of New York Folklore – New York’s statewide organization for the field of folklore– I am writing to suggest a more accurate portrayal of folklore and its role in human life.  While often portrayed as “inaccuracies,” or “quaint and old-fashioned,” folklore is much more than that misunderstood characterization.  Although folklore does connect people to their past, the expression of folklore is an integral part of life in the present.  Its manifestation is at the center of the idea of culture.  While folklore may include, as Morin states, “traditional customs,” as well as ideas that are not backed up by “evidence” (the multiple reports of Bigfoot occurrences nationwide, for example), folklore is, more accurately, the human, creative responses to very real, lived experiences.  Perhaps Laura Snapes’ review in The Guardian, (July 24, 2020) gives us the best rationale for the album’s title when she says that Folklore shows an “authentic” side to Swift.

“Authenticity” is an important concept to folklorists and those who follow and study folklore.  Every group of people that shares a sense of identity shares folklore as part of their identity.   Folklore is the “authentic” way that people comment upon their shared experiences.  Folklore during the current COVID-19 pandemic is all around us and it is easily apparent in the ways that people are responding creatively to their experiences.  Folklore is visible through the creative fabrications of the home-made facemasks.  Folklore is expressed through the changing ways that teens and schools are marking an important rite of passage by creatively re-working high school graduation ceremonies.  Folklore is visible in the Black Lives Movement through the memorials and street art created by communities expressing their grief over the murder of George Floyd, and through the ways that the shared experience of being Black in America is commented upon and creatively expressed through folk narrative, folk art, folk music, and practice throughout the Black community – no matter the geography, social class, educational attainment or age of the individual.

I ask those who are intrigued with Taylor Swift’s new album, Folklore, to use this moment as a stepping-off place to find out about folklore in your own communities.  Folklorists are working throughout New York State – in arts organization, museums, universities, and libraries – to draw attention to the diverse ways that folklore is apparent in our communities and to support folklore and folk arts at the grassroots.  One doesn’t have to look far, as there are vast resources at your fingertips – including New York’s statewide organization, New York Folklore (www.nyfolklore.org), the American Folklore Society (www.afsnet.org); and the Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, (www.loc.gov/folklife).   Like Swift’s song titled “Cardigan,” you may find that folklore is that part of yourself that is familiar and well-worn, yet evocative and deeply meaningful.  Folklore is complicated.

May 2020: 20 Folk Artists/20 Days

May 2020: 20 Folk Artists/20 Days

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.

75th Anniversary Year in Review

75th Anniversary Year in Review

As we close the books on 2019, I want to thank everyone for a fantastic and celebratory 75th anniversary year. New York Folklore was founded in 1944 by Louis Jones and Harold Thompson, two close friends and folklore colleagues who had a vision for a folklore organization that would draw together academics teaching folklore, students of folklore, tradition bearers, and local enthusiasts. Founded in October 1944 at a meeting of the New York History Association at the Albany Institute for History and Art, the New York Folklore Society was instituted and immediately convened a day-long series of presentations about folklore in New York State. This activity continued with twice annual gatherings and a journal that began publication in 1945. We haven’t stopped since! Predicated on a vision of cultural equity and inclusion, the nascent New York Folklore Society aligned itself with social justice and social action movements of the time, including the Progressive Education Movement and the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s. I am proud of the organization’s seventy-five year legacy of promoting cultural and social justice and I am pleased that this vision remains a vital part of the organization’s mission.

We began our 75th celebratory year with a birthday cake on June 6, 2019 that was handed out to anyone passing by outside our offices and gallery at 129 Jay Street in Schenectady. We were able to share this event with our visiting guests from the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. The celebration continued with a 75th Anniversary party that was held on November 16, 2019 at the Bethany Arts Community in Ossining. More than 110 guests were in attendance to wish us well. As President Tom van Buren and Vice-President Kay Turner declared, the ongoing vision of New York Folklore – to promote and nurture community – was in evidence. Of the guests attending, New York Folklore’s friends and constituents were in attendance, including folklore colleagues, folk and traditional artists, leaders of allied folklore organizations and folk arts specific organizations, former and current staff members, former journal editors, and former and current board members. Celebration participants came from as far away as Maine and New York’s St. Lawrence County, and from as near as Ossining and New York’s Westchester County.

While this was a grand year, we intend to continue into 2020, as next year will be the anniversary of our publication that began as New York Folklore Quarterly and today is known as Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore. To keep abreast of events and other anniversary initiatives, connect with us on Instagram and Facebook, subscribe to our blog, and visit our website. And please join us as a member so that New York Folklore can remain strong for the next 75 years!