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
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
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.
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 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.