Altered States of Place

The “places” that are important to us are currently in a state of re-definition.  As we experience social distancing to address the Covid-19 pandemic, our work spaces and our personal spaces are now one and the same.  My kitchen table – that place where pies are fashioned and family dinners are shared – is now a two-person office replete with dueling laptop computers.  The separation of work and personal – that idea of work/life balance – has been upended as our working lives and personal lives have become more closely intertwined.  In many ways, we have returned to that pre-industrial, agricultural past, when families toiled together within the home space towards the shared goal of family economic stability.  Like the farming community that surrounds me, my waking hours are no longer regulated by the ringing of an alarm clock but rather by the rays of sunlight that come through my window in the morning.

It is important for people to develop a sense of place.  We situate ourselves within the natural and social worlds and we form our identities through the intersections that we find there.   “Place” informs us.  It shapes our culture and our sense of being.  We belong to places and we fashion our identities through the places that we inhabit.

As we struggle to reshape the everyday, our places are shown into sharper focus.  When we return to what is “normalcy” – and that moment will come- we need to keep our heightened awareness of ourselves in situ.  What have we noticed about our places and what about our places sustained us?  For me, I will want to retain the calm that comes through a road without traffic, the ability to hop up from where I am sitting to take a hike through the nearby nature preserve, and the connections I feel to my family and neighbors who are similarly impacted by our social distancing.  We need to remember this moment so that when we return to our places of work, we bring our place-based sensibilities with us.

Covid-19 Relief  – Some Resources (This is a frequently edited post)

Covid-19 Relief – Some Resources (This is a frequently edited post)

Are you affected by the loss of income from the shut-down caused by the COVID-19 pandemic?  The following is a list of some resources that may help you in this troubling time.  Thank you to those non-profit leaders who have compiled much of this information that I am sharing with you.

Governmental Resources

Other Resources for support and Information from and for the Non-profit Sector:

Resources for Artists who are affected:

Especially for Indigenous Artists:

Resources compiled by the New York Foundation for the Arts.  This is a comprehensive list that is nationwide and also segments support by discipline:

Resources specific to New York City

A number of Organizations and Agencies are compiling information on how the COVID-19 Pandemic is affecting individuals and non-profits.  Let them know how you are affected:

1. Americans for the Arts, Survey for Individual Artists:
 2. Americans for the Arts, Survey for Organizations:
3.  New York State Council on the Arts:

Resources specific to Folk Arts/Folklorists: compiled by the American Folklore Society at

Vermont Folklife Center’s Virtual Story Circles: Includes more information on virtual story circles and a reservation form to participate in Virtual Story Circles (if you are from or in Vermont), and as well as a guide on how to host your own virtual story circles:

Virginia Folklife Program’s TRAIN: Teachers of Remote Arts Instruction Network: Online resources for teaching traditional arts online developed by the Virginia Folklife Program:

Learning Locally: Creative Responses Across the Nation in a Time of COVID-19: Local Learning is aggregating resources (folk arts organizations and materials) that “make local learning visible and preserving a wide-ranging array of folk artistry,” presented in a regional map:

Alliance for California Traditional Arts’ Shelter Together: A live video series that will feature performances by traditional artists from California every Wednesday and Friday at noon:

Vermont Folklife Center’s Listening in Place Project: Listening in Place is a new initiative that will result in the creation of a crowd-sourced sound archive to document the daily experiences during the pandemic and a series of online Virtual Story Circles for Vermonters:

American Folklife Center’s Field Surveys (1977–1998): a story map exploring the AFC’s online collections of materials from the large-scale field surveys that AFC facilitated between 1977 and 1998:

Touching Hearts, Not Hands

Touching Hearts, Not Hands

As we are confronting the coronavirus crisis, City Lore, in New York City, is putting out a call to collect creative responses to the crisis in song, poetry, video and other forms. New Yorkers are famous for coming together in community after September 11th. There were many creative responses to this sorrowful and challenging time including singing together and communal memorials on the street. Today we can’t get together and hold hands to sing — but we can be creative in other ways.

City Lore’s dedicated staff has the skills to document the myriad ways that people and communities express their identities, humanity and connection with each other.  After September 11th , City Lore documented the memorials that appeared on New York City’s streets.  This culminated in an exhibit at the New York Historical Society, Missing: Streetscape of a City in Mourning.  More recently, City Lore collected and documented signs from the Climate and Women’s marches nationwide. (An exhibit that features signs from the Women’s marches is just now being postponed!)
So to help us collectively and safely to find comfort, humor, and joy during this crisis, City Lore is putting out a call for poems, stories, songs, and videos that convey the experiences , encouragements, meditations, and innovations of this challenging time.   Please send your materials to with the subject line Touching Hearts, Not Hands”.     We all respond in our own way, we all do what we can, and this is the way a folklore center can respond.  The human spirit is irrepressible.
From the Waterfront: In Harm’s Way

From the Waterfront: In Harm’s Way

Voices columnist, Nancy Solomon of Long Island Traditions, offers a regular column entitled “From the Waterfront.”
This column appeared in Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore. Fall/Winter 2017.

As part of the exhibit “In Harm’s Way,” which explores how communities cope with storms and hurricanes, I conducted numerous interviews with local residents, architects, and planners about their experiences with storms and hurricanes. One of those interviewed was the Town of Hempstead Commissioner of Conservation and Waterways, Tom Doheny, who has worked on erosion issues for over 40 years. Like many coastal planners, Commissioner Doheny had seen a wide variety of proposals to prevent future storm damage on Long Island. Although there are some who would like to see floodgates erected, there are factors that could affect the success of such proposals. 

“I’m still asking myself what a flood wall would do. When there’s no place for the water to go, it will take the path of least resistance. It’s just going to shunt the water further west. The water will just pile up on it [the wall.] It’s a massive 15-foot wall of steel and concrete that is made to protect infrastructure. They don’t really care if the water goes someplace else. I hope the state is going to do some studies on the hydraulics. The mayor of Freeport wants to put tidal gates in the inlet. The volume of water that comes in the inlet is enormous. I can’t tell you how many millions of gallons of water come in there a day—600,000 cubic yards of sand come in there on the littoral drift every year. A study needs to be done to determine what will happen when the tidal gates holds the water back, from coming into the embayment, as to where the water will go in response to the tide gate.”

To read the full column and access other Voices back issues, please consider becoming a New York Folklore member. To learn more about how communities cope with destructive storms, visit Long Island Traditions’ YouTube playlist “In Harm’s Way.”