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.
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.
Annually, Grupo Folklórico de Poughkeepsie (GFP) brings the culture of Oaxaca, Mexico to the Hudson Valley at its La Guelaguetza festival. La Guelaguetza festival celebrates the unique folklore of Oaxaca, Mexico, which is a region of Mexico noted for its various indigenous communities.
The festival provides a window into authentic Oaxacan dance, music, and food, that is held in “Oaxakeepsie” (the nickname given to Poughkeepsie because of its large number of Oaxacan immigrants). GFP began presenting La Guelaguetza in 2008, as a grassroots effort to bring the festival to the local community.
The festival begins with a parade of all the dancers, dressed in colorful traditional costumes and led by the Corn Goddess. Each group represents a different region of Oaxaca. Because La Guelaguetza is a celebration of harvest and sharing, offerings of fruit and flowers are shared with the audience throughout the festival.
After the introductory parade, the dancing and music begins. The colorful costumes and traditional props are breathtaking. Bilingual masters of ceremony provide the festival’s context by introducing and explaining the meaning of the dances. The lively dance performances and live music allow the audience to see, hear, and participate in the traditional customs of Oaxaca, Mexico.
La Guelaguetza Poughkeepsie is truly a community effort. GFP (under the direction of Felipe Santos) works with Arts Mid-Hudson and Dutchess County Tourism to provide this festival free to the thousands of people who enjoy it. La Guelaguetza immerses enthusiasts of traditional music and dance in the rich traditions of Mexico’s Oaxaca state. In 2020, the festival will take place on Sunday August 2, at Waryas Park on the Hudson River waterfront. Please follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pokguelaguetza
In this day and age of self-aggrandizing pop stars, it is hard for today’s generation to imagine that there ever existed a selfless singer of song who was only concerned with the causes he sang about and not his celebrity. Well, there was a man of such integrity. I’m talking about our last American folk hero, Pete Seeger. A champion of the disenfranchised since the 1940s, Pete railed against war, pollution, racism, greed, and social injustice for eight decades. He bravely risked a 10-year prison sentence for defying Senator Joe McCarthy’s witch hunt in the 1950s and popularized the civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome,” for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic march in the 1960s. His anti-war song, “Knee Deep in the Big Muddy,” became a force in ending the Vietnam War. He founded the Clearwater organization, which continues to clean up the Hudson River. Right up until the very end, the 94-year-old icon was fighting the good fight. At 94, he performed at the Farm Aid concert, leading Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, and Neil Young in song against fracking. I spoke and exhibited my art at a gun control rally that Pete had organized and planned to perform at this past January 2014. The only reason he wasn’t there was because it coincided with his wake that was taking place about a half a mile down the road.
Michael D’Antuono and Pete Seeger at Pete’s house. Photo by David Bernz.
It’s because he sang for things like justice and the environment, and not for record sales, that he is so admired. Besides being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and winning a Grammy at 90, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts and a Kennedy Center Honor. He was chosen to sing at President Obama’s historic first inauguration. Bruce Springsteen devoted an entire album to Pete’s songs.
As an artist who’s known for creating work that challenges people to think more deeply about many of the same issues that Pete sang about, I have been personally inspired by Pete Seeger. That’s why I recently took time off from my sociopolitical paintings to create the portrait of Pete titled, “Beacon Of Hope” that hangs in Pete’s (and my) hometown of Beacon, NY, where the locals cherish their own national treasure.
“Beacon of Hope.” ©2013 Michael D’Antuono. 48″ x 72″, oil on canvas. Michael says, “I have been very fortunate to get to know Pete personally and receive his input in creating a poster of this piece to raise money for his Clearwater organizations. I can only aspire to have even a fraction of the positive influence with my art that Pete has had with his, as he is an inspiration to me and many, many others.”
There is currently a greatly deserved petition to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Somehow, I doubt Kanye West will ever get nominated for a Nobel Prize, unless of course he nominates himself. What made Pete so special is that he never cared about accolades—in fact, he disdained them. He only cared about the making the world a fairer place for generations and trying to preserve it for future ones.