Tag Archives: New York Folklore Society

Legends And Lore Historic Marker Grant Program


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Legends and Lore Grant Program - croppedThe William G. Pomeroy Foundation has partnered with the New York Folklore Society to launch a new grant program to promote cultural tourism and commemorate urban legends and folklore as part of the New York’s history.

Folklore is an expression of our common past, yet it draws attention to what is unique about communities. Passed from person to person over time, there is often historical truth at the heart of every legend. Continue reading

Ellen McHale: An Eastern United States Folklore Summit


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Greater New England: Mid-19th Century Yankee Settlement

This past May (2012), the small town of Cambridge in Washington County was host to a “summit”, of sorts, as folklorists and those allied professionals who work with the cultural arts gathered for an exchange of ideas.

The three day “Retreat” drew approximately sixty folklorists from throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic region and was sponsored by several loosely affiliated groups: Folklorists in New England (FINE), the Mid-Atlantic Folklore Association (MAFA), and the New York Folk Arts Roundtable.

Organized by the New York Folklore Society, the New York State Council on the Arts’ Folk Arts Program, and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Northeast Folklorists Retreat presented multiple opportunities for participants to explore current issues of importance to those who pursue the documentation of culture and contemporary folkways.

Attendees included staff of the Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Folklife Programs; State Folk Arts Coordinators for New York, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut; leaders from New York’s folklore institutions; and numerous cultural specialists who conduct their work under the auspices of public libraries, arts organizations, and public universities.

As defined in the American Folklife Preservation Act passed by Congress in 1976, American folklife means the traditional expressive culture shared within the various groups in the United States – familial, ethnic, occupational, religious, and regional. According to the definition, expressive folk culture, (which includes a wide range of creative and symbolic forms such as custom, belief, technical skill, language, literature, art, architecture, music, play, dance, drama, ritual pageantry, or handicraft) is mainly learned orally, by imitation, or in performance, and is generally maintained without benefit of formal instruction or institutional direction. As scholar Barre Toelken explains in The Dynamics of Folklore, (1979, Hougton Mifflin), “Folklore comes early and stays late in the lives of all of us. In spite of the combined forces of technology, science, television, religion, urbanization, and creeping literacy, we prefer our close personal associations as the basis for learning about life and transmitting important observations and expressions.”

Although still closely allied with the disciplines of comparative literature, history, and anthropology, the current discipline of folklore stands at an interesting juncture. In an era when twenty-first century globalization and the next “Big Idea” are often celebrated, folklorists are working hard to recognize local communities’ maintenance of cultural traditions. Because of its emphasis on cultural knowledge shared between and among groups, folklore has gained allies in contemporary movements that are coming to the forefront in American society.

Ideas which share folklore’s concerns such as the 100-mile or “locovore” food movement; “buy local” movements; the “Slow Food” movement; urban gardening; and “sustainability” are used by current community advocates as a lens to examine everything from energy to community infrastructure. Borrowing from these current shared concerns,” the 2012 Folklorists’ Retreat took as its theme, “Sustaining Culture: A Regional Conversation.” Besides providing an opportunity for folklorists to gain practical skills through sessions on audio documentation and digital formats (offered by Andy Kolovos, the archivist at the Vermont Folklife Center), the gathering provided an opportunity for those in attendance to share ideas and perspectives on issues relating to folklore, including definitions of “authenticity” and “sense of place”. Best practices for folklore programs involving cultural tourism, local collaborations, and arts in education were presented and participating folklorists wrestled with issues which arise when working with immigrant and refugee artists, or with presentational formats which use new forms of media.

Typically, folklorists gather annually under the auspices of the American Folklore Society or they gather in various regional groupings. This first ever Folklorists’ Retreat and Roundtable brought together organizations and individuals representing the entire Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Maryland, Washington DC to Niagara Falls. I am curious to see what comes of the resulting synergy.

Ellen McHale is Executive Director of the New York Folklore Society (founded in 1944) and has over 25 years of public sector folklore experience. She is also the folklorist for the National Museum of Racing’s Folk Arts project, documenting the predominantly Latino population in the backstretch/ stable area of the Saratoga Thoroughbred Racetrack through oral history interviews and photography.

New Contributor, Ellen McHale of the New York Folklore Society


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Please join us here at New York History in welcoming our newest contributor, Ellen McHale. Ellen is Executive Director of the New York Folklore Society (founded in 1944) and has over 25 years of public sector folklore experience, with over eleven years of experience as the Executive Director of a statewide folklore and  folk arts organization.  She holds a Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania and was a Fulbright Scholar to the  Institute for Folklife Studies at the University of Stockholm, Sweden.

Prior to her appointment as Executive Director of the New York Folklore Society, she served as Director of the Schoharie County Historical Society/Old Stone Fort Museum and as the Director of the Shaker Heritage Society.  For over ten years she has served as the folklorist for the National Museum of Racing’s Folk Arts project, documenting the predominantly Latino population in the backstretch/ stable area of the
Saratoga Thoroughbred Racetrack through oral history interviews and photography.

NY Folklore Society Graduate Student Conference


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For over 65 years, the New York Folklore Society (NYFS) has held an annual conference, typically with guest speakers, such as master artists and academic scholars, who have addressed a particular theme. This year, in collaboration with Binghamton University’s English Department, NYFS invites graduate students to present their work on legends and tales. In this way, students will be given a platform at a local conference to share their work and connect with other young academics from around the state. The NYFS seeks to encourage young scholars to continue their studies and become active contributors to the fields of folklore, ethnomusicology, anthropology and more. This conference presents students with the opportunity for feedback on works-in-progress and mentorship from the academy.



Theme: Legends and Tales

Legends and tales present characters under duress in extraordinary circumstances. They preserve cultural patterns and facilitate social change. Legends such as “The Vanishing Hitchhiker” and “The Killer in the Back Seat” have a kernel of truth; tales such as “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Armless Maiden” are clearly fictional but have complex layers of meaning. When legends and tales inspire literature and films, they bring richly resonant traditions to the minds of readers and viewers.

This multidisciplinary conference welcomes papers about legends and/or tales from graduate students in literature, folklore, anthropology, American studies, cultural studies, film studies, ethnic studies, gender studies, social and cultural history, and other fields. The conference organizers especially encourage papers related to the cultural traditions of New York State.

The NY Folklore Society Graduate Student Conference will be held November 12, 2010

at Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY.

Students are encouraged to submit proposals by August 15; the final deadline for submission is September 15.

More information can be found online.

New York Folklore Society Latino Artists’ Gathering


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The New York Folklore Society, in collaboration with Go Art!, will hold its second Latino Artists’ Gathering on March 19, 2011 At the Homestead Event Center, Batavia City Center, Batavia, New York.

Supported by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts, the gatherings provide an opportunity for Latino artists residing in non-metropolitan New York State to come together to discuss issues and solve common problems. March’s theme will be “Challenges and Opportunities for Traditional Artists in Rural New York”, and we will hear of some of the current initiatives being tried to link artists across distances.

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CFP: Latino Folk Culture, Expressive Traditions


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The New York Folklore Society has announced a Graduate Student Conference on Latino Folk Culture and Expressive Traditions to be held on November 20, 2010 at New York University, 20 Cooper Square, 4th Floor, NYC.

For over 65 years, the New York Folklore Society (NYFS) has held an annual conference, typically with guest speakers, such as master artists and academic scholars, who have addressed a particular theme. This year, in collaboration with NYU’s Latino Studies and Latin American Studies Departments, NYFS seeks to encourage young scholars to continue their studies and become active contributors to the fields of folklore, ethnomusicology, anthropology and more. Continue reading

CFP: Latino Folk Culture and Expressive Traditions


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For over 65 years, the New York Folklore Society (NYFS) has held an annual conference, typically with guest speakers, such as master artists and academic scholars, who have addressed a particular theme. This year, in collaboration with NYU’s Latino Studies and Latin American Studies Departments, we invite graduate students to present their work on Latino Folk Culture and Expressive Traditions.

In this way, students will be given a platform at a local conference to share their work and connect with other young academics from around the state. The NYFS seeks to
encourage young scholars to continue their studies and become active contributors to the fields of folklore, ethnomusicology, anthropology and more. Continue reading

Folklore Society Sponsoring Events for Latino Artists


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The New York Folklore Society will be sponsoring three gatherings for Latino artists in New York State. Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the gatherings will take place on three locations on three separate dates over this fall and next spring.

Designed for musicians, dancers, craftspersons, and others who are practicing a traditional artform with its origin in any of the Spanish-speaking communities of North and South America, the gatherings will assist artists in sharing resources and experiences. They will provide an opportunity for future collaborations and technical assistance. For additional information, or to find out how to become a “delegate” for the gatherings, contact Lisa Overholser at the New York Folklore Society.

The gatherings will be held as follows:

October 24, 2010 at Long Island Traditins, Port Washington
March 19, 2011 at Go Art!, Batavia
May 14, 2011 at Centro Civico, Amsterdam