Ellen McHale

Executive Director

Ph.D. and M.A. in Folklore and Folklife, University of Pennsylvania 

B.A. Music and American Studies, Wesleyan University 

Ellen McHale has served as the CEO of New York Folklore, since 1999.  Her role includes being the managing editor of “Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore,” working with the New York Folklore Board of Directors, communicating with funders and potential donors and funders, and serving as spokesperson for the organization.  At New York Folklore, she oversees a statewide network of folk cultural specialists, community experts, and artists.  Partnering with Local Learning, New York Folklore maintains and supports a growing network of teaching folk artists.

Prior to her work at New York Folklore, Ellen McHale worked as a public sector folklorist in several locations in New York State. She initiated folk arts programs at Arts Mid-Hudson and the Arts Center for the Capital District, and served as a consulting folklorist for many cultural organizations. Ellen served as Executive Director of the Shaker Heritage Society and later as the Director of the Schoharie County Historical Society. 

A scholar, Ellen has conducted fieldwork and written about the occupational life and lore of workers at Thoroughbred Racetracks in the United State, for which she was awarded an Archie Green Fellowship from the Library of Congress in 2012.  This work resulted in the monograph, Stable Views: Voices and Stories of the Thoroughbred Racetrack, Mississippi Press, 2014.  With Libby Tucker, she is the co-editor of New York State Folklife Reader: Diverse Voices, Mississippi Press, 2013. Her research interests include responses to climate change and flooding caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, refugee and immigrant inclusion and adaptation, and the intersection of culture and the environment and she has written numerous articles and produced exhibits that reflect these interests.  She is a Fulbright Fellow (Sweden/Senior Fellow)  where she served as a guest lecturer for the University of Stockholm, and she has taught at Utica College, Empire State College, and Hudson Valley Community College.

Ellen McHale currently serves on the Executive Board of Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts Education. She serves on the board of the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation and she is an elected town board member for the Town of Charleston, Montgomery County, NY, where she serves as the Chair of the Youth Commission. Along with her husband, John McKeeby, she co-founded the Schoharie River Center, an organization dedicated to cultural and environmental sustainability.