Congratulations to New York Folklore-supported artists who received a Statewide Community Regrant (SCR). These grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, are distributed by community arts partners. In the Capital Region, we are happy to work with the Arts Center of Capital Region.
At a ceremony at the Arts Center, seven folk and traditional artists accepted a combined total of $16,000. The grants will fund workshops, demonstrations, and performances for each artist in their communities and the general public.
Artists worked with New York Folklore’s Edgar Betelu to complete grant applications at the end of 2021. New York Folklore had identified these talented traditional artists as part of the 2021 Upstate Regional Project.
Pinya Aung, Karen Harpist
Ehsue Klay Aung, Karen Dancer
Latifa Ali Mohammad, Afghan Embroidery
Jordan Taylor Hill, African Drumming and Dance
Seth Tagoe Traore, Ghanian Drumming and Dance
Shaman Raphel, Pakistani Harmonium and Singing
Aurelius John, Pakistani Percussion and Flute
Applications are now being accepted for this paid opportunity, supported through the Internship program of New York Folklore and the New York State Council on the Arts. The Folklore Graduate Student Folk Arts Internship provides opportunities for graduate students in folklore to learn first-hand about public folk arts programming and field research while completing a project that will benefit both the host organization and the folklorist intern.
Any student enrolled in a masters or doctoral graduate folklore program may apply. Folklorists who graduated from a graduate folklore program in the past two years may also apply.
Interns will be expected to undertake a special project linked to their learning program for graduate study which will also benefit the host organization. This year one internship is available, to be hosted by GLOW Traditions, located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. GLOW Traditions is a shared program with the Arts Council for Wyoming County, the Genesee Valley Council on the Arts, and the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council which is directed by Karen Canning. GLOW Traditions is located in a predominantly rural area of western New York between Rochester and Buffalo, with a service area encompassing around 2200 square miles.
The duration of this internship is 8 weeks, 30-35 hours per week. It will occur from late May through August, 2022.
How to Apply:
A driver’s license and use of an automobile is required. A dedicated office at the Genesee Valley Council on the Arts in Mt. Morris, NY will be made available for the intern. Karen Canning will assist in securing housing in a centralized location, possibly in Geneseo, NY. A stipend of $5000 will be provided to the intern.
To apply, submit a resume’ or CV and a letter describing the potential benefits of the internship for the applicant’s career goals as a public folklorist. For current graduate students, please reflect on the internship’s relationship to your graduate learning program. The application letter should also indicate how previous experiences in programming, field research and/or administration would contribute to the organization hosting the internship. Following the internship, the intern and the host organization are both required to submit a report evaluating the internship.
Applications must be received by midnight on Sunday, March 13th and decisions about the successful candidates will be made by March 28. Applications must be submitted electronically to Laurie Longfield at New York Folklore [email protected] (please do not contact GLOW Traditions for information about these internships). Additional information can be obtained by contacting Ellen McHale, Executive Director of New York Folklore, [email protected]
Stories That Cook: Art, Memories and Recipes
This is a two-year project, recently funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, that will include a series of arts workshops, an exhibit, and a cookbook created by artists, farmworkers and their families in western New York. It is a collaboration between GLOW Traditions and another GVCA program, Creative Artists Migrant Program Service (CAMPS). CAMPS was founded in 1975 at the Geneseo Migrant Center, with a mission to offer free art workshops to migrant farmworkers and families in Western New York, who are currently predominantly Hispanic. GLOW Traditions has consistently worked with these communities for more than 15 years to document and present traditional arts, music, dance, foodways, and celebrations such as the Día de Muertos and Tres Reyes. This project will spotlight and honor the rich cultural gifts that reside in our agricultural community, from generational farm families to newer farmworkers, and celebrate points of connection among diverse cultures in the region. The intern will assist GLOW Traditions staff with interviews of farmers and farmworkers to gather foodways and family histories, and work with ongoing data entry of recipes and contextual materials for the book preparation.
A history of GLOW Traditions:
The folk arts program was established in 1985, one of the first in New York state. Dr. Bruce Buckley, a noted scholar and folklorist who had retired from the folklore program at Cooperstown/SUNY Oneonta, came to Wyoming County and began his second career in public folk arts documentation and programming. His work forms the basis of our archive of traditional arts, which contains interviews and slides of more than 200 artisans in our region from 1985 to the present day. Folklorist Kathy Kimiciek led the program from 1988-1990, and in 1996 Karen Canning became the staff folklorist for the region encompassing Wyoming, Livingston, Genesee and Orleans (GLOW) Counties. In 2013, the program was officially renamed, GLOW Traditions, to further emphasize the connection between partnering arts councils in surrounding counties: ACWC, Livingston Arts and the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council.
Folk and Traditional Artists pursue an art form or activity that is rooted within their community, family, and/or heritage. This form of artistic expression is often learned over time through repeated experience and purposeful or informal teaching. These one-on-one or apprentice-style relationships are how traditional arts thrive over generations. Apprenticeship Grants through the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) are one of the foundational tools in the field of folklore and folk arts in New York State. Through this program, “master” artists take on one or more apprentices to pass on their skills and knowledge. Apprentices can be other community members or a member of their own family.
Another avenue of support via the New York State Council on the Arts are grants for artists to pursue their own projects and initiatives. This category was new in 2022 for the Folk and Traditional Arts Category of NYSCA. Folk and Traditional artist grants are allowing artists to execute programs, pieces, performances, workshops, etc. on their own.
Following New York State’s $105 million investment in the arts for FY2022, NYSCA has awarded more than $80 million in arts grants to organizations and individual artists since June 2021. Of that over $250,000 has been awarded directly to folk and traditional artists via Individual Artist and Apprenticeship Grants. Over 30 Folk and Traditional Artists in New York State received an apprenticeship or Individual Artist grant for 2022.
Recipients and art forms are various and include:
Luis Cordero, Rosa and Felix Reyes and Edy Cordero, Bachata and Merengue via Long Island Traditions
Juan José Gutiérrez and Juan Gerena, Bomba y Plena via LOS PLENEROS DE LA 21
Clarence “Bucky” Geter and John Walton, Gospel Music via The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes
Richard Koski with Michael Ludgate and Katrina Mackey, Finnish American Dance Music via the The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes
Hayden Haynes and Darelyn Spruce, Seneca Bone Carving via The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes
Victor Manuel Garcia Gonzalez AKA Dindy and Gomany Norales, drum making via HEDco; Bronx Music Heritage Center
Tashi Sharzur (Techung) with Mia and Jasmin Eames, Tibetan music and dance via New York Folklore
Muhammad Ismail Durdi with Muhammad Yousaf and Muhammad Ayoob, Turkmen rug weaving via New York Folklore
Peniel Guerrier with Kayenne Charles-Pierre, Haitian traditional dance via the Center for Traditional Music and Dance
Salieu Suso with Fode Diop, kora West African harp via the Center for Traditional Music and Dance
Individual Artist Grants include the following:
Beareather Reddy for In My Soul
Bonnie Gale for Exploring Willow Casket Making
Altin Stoja for Shining a Light, A Public Art Project in Greek Orthodox iconography.
Nada Odeh for Arabic Calligraphy Workshop and Mural
Melvis Santa for Women Akpwon: Afro-Cuban Percussion and Song Workshops and Performances
Gretchen Koehler for Fiddling with Tradition
Esraa Warda for Rani Mrida Music and Dance Initiative
This is just a sampling of the many traditional arts activities and artists supported in 2022 through the New York State Council on the Arts.
Photo: Aziz Peerzada and his 11-year old son Saboor perform
a beautiful set of Punjabi folk songs at the 2016 Brooklyn Arts Council Festival.
On November 23, 2020, I attended a virtual Zoom hearing on the decision by the Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC) to cancel its folk arts program, and to lay off our colleague, folklorist Chris Mule. The artists, folklorists, scholars and community leaders attending spoke with great support and appreciation for Chris’ role at BAC and his work with many artists and communities of Brooklyn. Charlotte A. Cohen, the executive director of BAC demonstrated extensive knowledge and appreciation of the field, and of the relationships that Chris had built over six years in the position. Nevertheless, she said that the decision to cancel the program was was made for purely budgetary reasons.
The County and Regional Folk Arts programs, among which BAC’s was a prominent leader until this year, were inspired by Robert Baron in his long tenure at the New York State Council on the Arts, as a vehicle to encourage research and programming in folk and traditional arts across New York State. These programs, in which many of New York Folklore’s board (myself included), staff and members have worked, is of considerable interest to us, both practically and theoretically, as they have offered a window into local culture across many counties and regions, and have been a means to bring to wider attention folk artists and traditions across the state, many of which would not be as widely known otherwise. During my tenure on the board of NY Folklore, support for these programs has been a central focus. So it is with great sadness that we see the loss of Brooklyn’s program, which served one the most culturally diverse and vibrant regions of New York State. In Chris’ time at BAC, he has also led the statewide NY Living Traditions digital initiative, which has elevated the entire field to wider attention. Our main argument in support the program and ones like it is in order bring equity to arts and culture programming and funding within organizations dedicated to all that is implied in the term “Arts”, they need to be directed by knowledgeable and competent people, who are trained in working across diverse cultures in an ethical and accountable manner. This is an important part of what a public sector folklorist is, and it is what we encourage in each other.
At the BAC hearing, the representatives talked about replacing the folk arts program with one that one focused on “cultural heritage.” In so doing, they are perhaps aligning themselves with a term used internationally, most prominently by UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage program. This term concerns the same thing that we mean by “folk culture” but in the US, the latter term has a far longer and deeper history of research and engagement, as well as a solid footing in the academic and theoretical filed of Folklore.
Late in the two-hour BAC hearing, its program director Desirée Gordon, who is to serve as an interim director of this new cultural heritage effort until funding allows for a new hire, revealed an interesting point about the terms we use. She cited both community scholars and academics who are adverse to the term “folk,” going so far as to imply a racist bias in the term itself, perhaps one rooted in the Anglo European origins of the field of folklore. While it is true that the early field did focus on local cultures in Europe, and that some early American folklorists explored the cultural roots of Euro-Americans, tracing English origins to Appalachian culture, for example, nonetheless, over the past sixty years the field has gone to great lengths to widen its purview to the full range of cultures in the US, and the elevation of diverse voices of both master artists and their community supporters. While it is true that academically trained folklorists are not as diverse a group as the cultures they study and work with, we have sought to diversity our ranks and the perspectives that are at the center of our work.
In this time of reckoning with the racial dynamics of American society and history, perhaps it is inevitable that our field would be seen as yet another manifestation of institutional racism, relegating black and brown cultures to an apparently pejorative lower status that some might interpret the term “folk” to describe. I know, and my colleagues know, that what we call folk is something we hold in the highest esteem. Unfortunately, we may be confronting a wider social perception. Despite our efforts to serve as translators, publicists and advocates for under represented arts and cultures, we may have attracted the wrong kinds of attention to what we do.
Just three months before COVID struck in New York, we at New York Folklore celebrated the 75th anniversary, since our founding as a membership organization to promote an intersection of academic and public sector focus on the diverse traditional cultures of New York State. We will do everything possible to ensure another 75 years of this work, but our first task is going to involve reckoning with both the challenges of surviving this pandemic and coming to terms with the ugly history that lies behind America’s diversity. Without equity, perhaps diversity itself is of little meaning. I am sorry that the leadership of the Brooklyn Arts Council came to their decision before hearing the many voices of the artists and communities who have participated in its programs as well as those of folklorists across the state who have worked long and hard to do justice to the challenges of trying to bring a small measure of cultural equity to a society that otherwise disregards the particular qualities that give our lives some meaning beyond the commercialized and mass mediated versions of ourselves. We will continue this work, despite the obstacles we face. We must seek common ground in the spirit of affirmation for all cultures and welcome allies wherever they may be found.
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.