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Celebrating Folk Arts in CNY

Fall Folk Arts Festival 2013

September 6, 5-8pm

On September 6, the Art Center will be celebrating First Friday with a special Fall Folk Arts Festival. This event will feature traditional regional dances and crafts that celebrate autumn and the harvest. Join the fun with Contra Dance by Casey Mullaney calling to the music of O'Shanigans at Theater Mack, adjacent to the Art Center. Demonstrating visual artists will be set up throughout the Schweinfurth Art Center galleries interacting with visitors to the Fall Exhibition, Fertile Imagination: Art & Agriculture. This event is free and open to the public.

Folk Arts programs are sponsored by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Performing Artists:

Contra dance with Casey Mullaney and O'Shanigans

The O'Shanigans are Phil Robinson (guitar), Tim Ball (fiddle) and Michael Ludgate (mandolin and banjo). Since 2009 they have been one of most sought-after contra dance bands in Ithaca, also playing for weddings and open jams in Central New York and beyond. All three members are multi-instrumentalists with a strong family heritage of musicianship, and each brings their own, unique perspective to the group stemming from their backgrounds in music as diverse as rock, jazz, Irish, and barbershop. Their repertoire combines old-time tunes with Celtic, American and "world" fiddle influences, and their sense of musical humor makes them a favorite with contra dancers in our region.

Casey Mullaney will be calling the dance. She began calling while a student at Hartwick College in Oneonta and has since worked with the O’Shanigans on several occasions. Known for her clear, skillful instruction and her warm and friendly style, Mulaney is an up and coming talent in central and upstate New York.

Visual Artists:

Habiba Hassan, originally from Juba, Somalia, learned weaving and embroidery from her mother as a child. Years later, when living in a UN refugee camp in Kenya, she decided to sell home-made baskets and other woven objects to generate income for her family. Soon she taught her skills to other women and ran a successful business in the camp, which continued after she and her family left for the United States, where she has resided with her family since 2007. In Syracuse, Ms. Hassan continues her activities as a master artisan, teaching children to dye and weave with natural fibers. She also crochets and embroiders textiles with expressive floral ornaments in bright, primary colors that decorate the walls and ceilings of Bantu homes like hers, and makes glass-bead necklaces, belts, and bracelets called fiin. They are worn for dancing and important occasions like births and marriages and are passed down from mother to daughter.

Evelyn Cassano is artistic director and co-founder of the dance group “Panameños en Rochester,” as well as founder of “Grupo Cultural Latinos En Rochester”, a group which aims to share Latin American cultureand folklore trough dance and community service. Today she is joined by her mother, Cecilia Domínguez De Sasso, who is visiting from Panama. Evelyn learned to dance as a child in Panama, where she was specially selected and trained to perform in Independence Day celebrations as a representative of her town of La Chorrera. When Evelyn moved to Rochester in 2006, she joined with other Panamanians to form a group to teach traditional dances to their children. However, the high cost of the hair ornaments called tembleques put them out of reach for the group’s 35 members. Thus, Evelyn and Cecilia learned to make their own by consulting with friends, neighbors, and internet contacts, and through years of trial and error. Tembleques are worn to perform many of Panama’s dances, like cumbia, tamborito, and punto.

Iryna Juravich, originally from the Lviv region of western Ukraine, makes traditional Ukrainian beadwork and woven belts. Her belts are handmade from start to finish – she even raises her own sheep, alpacas, angora goats and rabbits at her home in Oneida. While she started weaving and beading only recently, these crafts are an extension of the cross-stich work she learned from her family as a child and use many of the same motifs and symbols, like the Catholic cross, ram or deer horns, pine trees, bells, roses, and oats. These items were traditionally worn as part of women’s festive or Sunday dress, and here are used for costumes to perform regional dances like Hutsul, Kolomiyka, Arkan, Volyn, or Hopak. Also a violinist and music teacher, she has lived in Central New York for 18 years and her three children are part of the Odesa Ukrainian Dance Ensemble of Syracuse. 

Jahbad Kerow is a musician and instrument maker from Bu'ale, Somalia who came to Syracuse in September 2004 because of the civil war in his country. He has played the shareero (also sharrara), a stringed instrument from East Africa, almost as long as he can remember. It is usually accompanied by a long, cylindrical, single-headed drum called the tabul and sometimes by a wooden clapper called shambal. Mr Kerow learned to make these instruments in the US because there were not enough instruments available to play the musical genre called shareero. Today, Mr. Kerow performs together with his band in Syracuse and elsewhere Central New York. Shareero music is often accompanied by dance, which is also called shareero. Traditionally, shareero is performed to heal sick people, especially if they are believed to be possessed by evil spirits. Music with drums is also used for celebrations like weddings and the harvest.

*Photo Caption: Mohamed Bulle demonstrating the sharrara, a Somali Bantu musical instrument.

Sherri Waterman-Hopper is a member of the Beaver Clan of the Onondaga Nation.  Over 20 years ago, Ms. Waterman-Hopper formed the Haudenosaunee Singers and Dancers with her children as a way of educating audiences about Haudenosaunee culture and history. She is well-known for the dance regalia she creates for herself and others, an art she learned from her mother by helping to create the clothing the family wore for dancing at fairs. Since then, she has come to research historical and contemporary traditional dress, and has also learned pottery and jewelry making, creating silver brooches in 18th and 19th century Iroquois styles. Ms. Waterman-Hopper has also served on the Advisory Council for the Iroquois Museum, and as board member of the North American Indian Club in Syracuse and Team Iroquois Lacrosse.

FOLK ARTS Summer Concerts 2013

Concerts are held at Market Street Park in downtown Auburn as part of the Auburn Business Improvement District's Summer Concert Series. Rain location for concerts is the Willard Memorial Chapel at 17 Nelson St, Auburn, NY 13021.

JULY 24, 6PM

Voices of Clouds - Gospel Quartet

The Voices of Clouds are one of the premier quartets from Rochester's vibrant gospel music scene. The group formed in 1954 in Florida, later relocating and reforming in Rochester. With 50 years performing experience, the group is an important part of gospel music history. They frequently play in churches in the Finger Lakes region and all over the United States, and released a new album on their own VOC label in 2010. For the concert in Auburn, lead vocalist Joe James Sr, Larry Walker (baritone), Joe James Jr (soprano, guitar), David James (tenor, drums) and a host of musicians have prepared an electrifying performance in praise of Jesus.


JULY 24, 7PM

Fana Bangoura & the Mounafanyi Percussion 7 Dance Ensemble

West African Master Drummer and Dance

Kerfala Bangoura of Rochester was born in Conakry, the capital of Guinea in West Africa, where he became a nationally recognized dancer and was named Master Drummer by the Guinean Ministry of Culture in 2008. Before Kerfala moved to New York, he performed with many leading ensembles of Guinea, including Les Ballets Africans. Since then, he has been working as a performer and educator. With his performing group, Mounafanyi, he opened Portland’s African Film Festival in 2010. Currently, Kerfala leads a percussion ensemble and teaches dance at the University of Rochester. In Auburn, Kerfala will showcase some of his favorites and demonstrate that music and dance are another way of storytelling.



Wind and Wire - Traditional Irish Duo

Wind and Wire

Wind and Wire are a duo from Ithaca and Syracuse dedicated to playing Irish traditional music, particularly dance tunes like jigs and reels. The “wire” is provided by Jonathan Chai on fiddle, while the “wind” is contributed by Nick Whitmer on the uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes). Jonathan is a Syracuse native who played classical violin from an early age, but was later seduced by Irish music, particularly the fiddlers James Kelly and Jesse Smith.  Nick, a native of Portland, Oregon, has been playing the pipes for thirty years, and making them for almost as long. His handmade instruments are well respected by Irish musicians around the US, and are played by top uilleann pipers like Jerry O’Sullivan. Nick joined forces with Jonathan, who also plays concertina, after meeting him at a local session not long after moving to Ithaca in 2003.


Ecos Borincanos - Music of the Mountains of Puerto Rico

Ecos Borincanos (Echoes of Puerto Rico) is a five-member group under the leadership of Félix Martínez, trovador (vocalist) and Anthony Santiago (cuatro). Originally from Coamo in rural Puerto Rico, Félix learned to sing the country music called música jíbara from a young age. While it can be played at any time of year, the music is essential for Christmas parties called parrandas. Even in New York State one can hear the rhythms of seis and aguinaldo every December, and after moving to Rochester in 1970, Felix found that he was often called upon to sing for parrandas. When he met Anthony Santiago, who plays cuatro, a guitar-like instrument considered a symbol of Puerto Rican culture, the two decided to form their own group with three other musicians playing bongo, güiro (a gourd scraper), and guitar. Ecos perform for community celebrations and larger festivals in Rochester and Buffalo. Felix says that this music is important because of its poetry and because it makes one think of Puerto Rico, and he looks forward to sharing it with a new audience in Auburn.


Folk Arts programs are sponsored by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

History of Folk Arts Programs

Folk Arts in a Global Context

Since 2002, the Schweinfurth Art Center has offered innovative folk arts programs.

The purpose of this multi-arts program is to introduce local residents to the history and customs of groups now living in our region. Fieldwork for the series is conducted by Dr. Felicia "Faye" McMahon, folklorist, who has worked with refugee artists from five communities which include DiDinga (Sudan), Dinka (Sudan), Karen (Burma), Albanian-Kosovars, and Bosnians of the former Yugoslavia.

The Schweinfurth Art Center’s folk arts programs are sponsored by the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency. All programs are free and open to the public.



Folk Arts in a Global ContextIn the summer of 2005, the Art Center hosted two folk arts festivals in which folk artists from the new ethnic groups were presented along with traditional artists of older communities in our region.

Our program on Sunday, July 17th, 2005 featured traditional songs and dances by the DiDinga, no-face corn-husk dolls by Brenda Bush (Oneida Turtle Clan), and elm bark ceremonial rattles by John Webster (Oneida Wolf Clan). Visitors also had the opportunity to watch Karen traditional weaving (tahtah) on backstrap looms by Karen women now living in Utica.

Folk Arts in a Global ContextThe second program was held on Sunday, August 21st and featured the Odesa Ukrainian Dancers of Syracuse, Albanian folk musician Mehdi Uka, and traditional Bosnian dancers with folk music by the Bosnian MAH Band of Utica. There were also several continuous folk arts demonstrations by folk artists from Bosnia, Kosovo, and Ukraine, including filet crochet, pune dore, vyshyvky and pysanky.


During the spring and summer of 2006, "Beauty" was the focus of our two folk arts programs.

Our first program was held on Saturday, May 20, 2006 and visitors had the opportunity to explore the beauty of traditional Latino, Mandingo-Liberian, and Chinese dance, performed by groups from the Spanish Action League, the Refugee Settlement Services in Syracuse, and by the CNY Chinese School in Manlius.

Folk Arts in a Global Context

Folk arts demonstrations by members of the three cultural groups included Chinese paper cutting and calligraphy, Mexican papercutting and piñata making, and African musical instruments.

Our second program was held on Sunday, August 20, 2007 and included folk artists from the Oneida and Onondaga Nations and several groups from Africa, including Congo, Ghana and Sudan.


On Sunday, July 1st, 2007, the Art Center hosted performances and demonstrations by Vietnamese, Liberian, Bosnian, and Native American folk artists from CNY. This series explores the evolving traditions of resettled refugee communities in Central NY alongside traditional artists from more established ethnic communities and Native American artists.

On Saturday, September 29, 2007, the Art Center hosted a Fall Folk Arts Festival & Concert. There were alternating performances of traditional Irish music by Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann—Craobh Dugan of Utica and African drumming and dance by Kwasi Owusu Anane and Etse "David" Nyadedzor of Syracuse. There were also participatory demonstrations of folk arts by Melissa McCann (Oneida cornhusk dollmaking), Howard Hall (decoy carving), John Webster (Native American elm bark rattles) and Ron Patterson (lacrosse stick making).


On Wednesday, August 13, 2008 from 7 - 9pm, the Art Center hosted an Evening of Traditional Music and music performed by three of CNY's cultural communities: Ukrainian-Americans,

Ghanaians, and Meskhetian Turks of Russia.

On Sunday, October 5, 2008, a variety of folk artists representing the cultural diversity of Central New York participated in the first-annual Schweinfest. The performances and demonstrations included music and dances from southern Sudan and Ivory Coast and traditional arts demonstrations, including Ukrainian-American pysanky, Haudenosaunee cornhusk and cloth no-face dolls, drum making, lacrosse stick-making, and carved wild turkey yelpers.



Our first program was held on Thursday, July 30 from 7 - 9pm. The program featured traditional music and dance performed by groups from CNY’s Jewish and Latino cultural communities, including the Keyna Hora Klezmer Band and La Joven Guardia del Teatro y La Danza Latina (The Latino Theater Dance Youth Troupe) of Syracuse. 


On Sunday, October 4, 2009, the Art Center hosted our second-annual Schweinfest, which included musical and dance performances by Ling Performing Arts, ODESA Ukrainian Dancers, Sudanese Didinga Hill Dancers, and Sudanese Dinka Dancers. Demonstrating folk artists included: Valerie Lynn Brown, rush weaving and chair caning; Alf Jacques, Onondaga lacrosse stick-making; Barbara Peterson, African American needlework; Christina Bobesky, Ukrainian embroidery; James Alaak, Sudanese clay cow making; and Akon Koun and Monica Dut, Dinka hair braiding and needlework.


In 2010, we joined up with the Downtown Auburn Business Improvement District's Summer Concert Series. We sponsored two of the Wednesday night concerts which were held in Market Street Park in downtown Auburn.

Our first program was held on Wednesday, July 14 from 6-8pm and included traditional Jewish and Irish music by the Keyna Hora Klezmer Band & Quigsy & The Bird.

Our second program was held on Wednesday, August 11 from 6-8pm and included traditional Bosnian music by Mirza Tihic, German zither music by Klaus Raith, and Ol' Tyme Fiddle music by the Oswego Valley Fiddlers.

The Art Center hosted the third-annual Schweinfest from 12-4pm on Sunday, October 3, 2010. Performances included Irish music by Quigsy & The Bird, Mohawk Cree Flute by Al Cleveland, and storytelling by Belle Wilson and Mary Marquis as well as dance performances by the Sudanese Dinka Community Dancers, EJEDA – Congolese dancers, and Somali Bantu dancers. Demonstrating folk artists included Annie Green, Algonquin glass beadwork and leather moccasins; Alf Jacques, Onondaga lacrosse stick-making; Ada Jacques, Onondaga cornhusk dolls; Akon Kown and Hawa Athin, Sudanese needlework; Al Cleveland, carved wooden flutes; Suldani Ibrahim, Somali Bantu henna; Belle Wilson and Mary Marquis, dried herbs and canned vegetables.


The Art Center hosted Folk Arts & Family Fun Day on Sunday, June 26 from 1-5pm at the Schweinfurth Art Center and the Cayuga Museum of History and Art. Presentations featured the celebratory and social dances of the Sudanese Didinga Hills Dancers; a traditional social dance by the Somali Bantu Community Association; unity dances by the Congolese Community of Central New York; and traditional Italian hymns and songs by Coro Folcloristico. Demonstrations featured the children's art of making miniature cows of James Alaak (Dinka of South Sudan), cornhusk dolls of Ada Jacques (Onondaga Turtle Clan), lacrosse sticks by Alf Jacques (Onondaga, Turtle Clan), paper bead jewelry by Christine Atem (Acholi of South Sudan), palm weaving by Habiba Hassan (Somali Bantu Community), and henna by Suldana Abdulkadir (Somali Bantu Community).


The Art Center continued to partner with the Downtown Auburn Business Improvement District's Summer Concert Series to present two Wednesday night concerts which were held in Market Street Park in downtown Auburn. The first program was held on Wednesday, July 27, 6-8pm and featured the traditional drumming and dances of the Ivory Coast and Guinea by Biboti Ouikahilo & Wacheva Cultural Arts and music of the Shona people of Zimbabwe by Kambuyu Marimba Ensemble. The second program was held on Wednesday, August 17 from 6-8pm and featured traditional Irish music by Quigsy & the Bird and traditional fiddle music by Oswego Valley Fiddlers.



The Art Center hosted a Folk Arts & Fiber Festival on Sunday, November 11 from 2-4pm at the Schweinfurth Art Center. Demonstrations featured Bosnian crochet by Raza Begovic, Congolese clothing by Kiza Useni and Makene Yelusa, Japanese paper arts by Tomoko Stultz, knitting and spinning by Doris Wolf, rugbraiding by Florence Smith, Somali Bantu basketry and embroidery by Habiba Hassan, tatting by Karey Solomon, and Ukrainian Embroidery by Slawka Bobesky. Eileen Rose performed on the mountain dulcimer and sang mountain-style music from Kentucky, Georgia, and North Carolina.

The Art Center continued to partner with the Downtown Auburn Business Improvement District's Summer Concert Series to present two Wednesday night concerts held in Market Street Park in downtown Auburn. The first program was held on Wednesday, July 25 from 6-8pm and featured music derived from the villages of Eastern Europe by Syracuse's Keyna Hora Klezmer Band and marimba music influenced by the Shona people of Zimbabwe, Africa by the Kambuyu Marimba Ensemble. The second program was held on Wednesday, August 15, 6-8pm. This concert was held at the Schweinfurth Art Center because of inclement weather forecasts. This concert featured traditional Irish music by Tom Hourican & Friends and Latino music with Trio Los Claveles.

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SCHWEINFURTH MEMORIAL ART CENTER . 205 Genesee Street, AUBURN, NY 13021 . (315)255-1553 .