Our 36th annual Roundtable has officially wrapped! This year we were joined by 35 of our colleagues at the Hotel Syracuse, the Roundtable’s Birthplace. It is poetic that while revisiting the Roundtable’s roots we welcomed a record number of new peers. We are thrilled to have folks representing organizations like Imamou Lele, Big Eyed Enterprises, and JouvayFest in our New York Folklore family.
Monday morning began with a workshop hosted with Local Learning and led by teaching artists Juan Gutierrez-Rodriguez and Julia Gutierrez-Rivera of Los Pleneros de la 21. Juan and Julia started with an energetic demonstration of the Bomba y Plena and ended with discussions of best practices for artists. Folklorists brainstormed ways to support a network of Folk Arts in Education in New York.
In the afternoon we dove into our Roundtable tradition, What We’re Doing Presentations. Presentations took place over Monday and Tuesday. Monday’s sessions were followed by a conversation about the state of the field in New York, led by New York Folklore board members; Kay Turner and Maria Kennedy. The Roundtable’s first day came to a close at a delicious group dinner at Eritrea Ethiopian Restaurant
We were honored to be guests of the Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center, in Liverpool on Tuesday. At the Center, Frieda Jacques a clan mother from the Onondaga nation kept our group at rapt attention with her tour. Frieda’s tour was followed by Tim Frandy’s presentation on working with Indigenous communities. After a second round of What We’re Doing Presentation, roundtablers headed to an impromptu group dinner at Salt City Market – complete with a presentation by market staff about the good work by Allyn Family Foundation and Salt City Market. Thank you to roundtabler, artist, and Syracuse resident Nada Odeh for organizing the dinner.
As we prepared to part ways on Wednesday, the Roundtable concluded with a discussion of advocacy, and strategy concerning forward movement as a field, as well as statewide initiatives by groups like Local Learning, Long Island Traditions, and of course New York Folklore’s Technical Assistance program and Voices. Remember Rountablers: Spread the word about the services that New York Folklore can provide to traditional and folk practitioners!
For more information about Technical Assistance or Voices, please contact New York Folklore. For more information about self-guided audio tours by Travel Storys contact Nancy Soloman at Long Island Traditions.
Thank you to everyone who joined us in person and virtually! We are looking forward to the next Roundtable in the spring of 2022 back in Syracuse!
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.
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
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.
New York Folklore opened its exhibition gallery with an exhibition of ebru paintings by Hatice Erbas-Sorkunlu. Hatice Erbas-Sorkunlu is an ebru artist originally from Turkey, currently living in Buffalo. Hatice studied the traditional Turkish tile art of çini at university, and during her studies became interested in ebru. Hatice learned to do ebru while living in Istanbul and later taught traditional Turkish arts to international students at Fasl-ı Bahar, an Islamic College. Hatice has been practicing ebru for 6 years. For this exhibition, Hatice is exhibiting ten framed pieces that illustrate different ebru techniques, with some incorporating Turkish paper cutting.
Erbas-Sorkunlu provided a hands-on ebru workshop for the public and she was in attendance for the exhibition’s opening reception. Her travel and her participatory workshop were made possible by a grant from the Schenectady Initiative Program. The exhibit will be on view through Labor Day 2019.
New York Folklore underwent extensive renovations and building upgrades to open its new exhibition gallery at the end of March. A grant from the William Gundry Broughton Charitable Foundation provided funds to conduct renovations that included floor repair, painting, carpet installation, and the addition of upgraded ambient and track lighting. As part of New York Folklore’s rebranding efforts, the upgrade also included a new sign for the building’s façade.