Exhibitions at the Gallery: NORTH BY NORTHEAST:
Baskets & Beadwork
from the Akwesasne Mohawk and Tuscarora
129 Jay Street, Schenectady, NY ♦ 518/346-7008
Gallery Hours: Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and Sunday hours (May-October) 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (in conjunction with the Schenectady Greenmarket outside City Hall);
or by Appointment
North by Northeast:
Baskets and Beadwork from the Akwesasne Mohawk and Tuscarora
As a part of the Hudson Valley’s Quadricentennial celebrations, the New York Folklore Society commemorated the vibrant cultural traditions of New York’s Haudenosaunee tribes with “North by Northeast: Baskets and Beadwork from the Akwesasne Mohawk and Tuscarora.” The central focus of North by Northeast was a month-long exhibition displaying the New York-based traditional artists featured in the larger traveling exhibition North by Northeast: Wabanaki, Akwesasne Mohawk and Tuscarora Traditional Arts, curated by folklorist Kathleen Mundell, Director of Cultural Resources, Inc. in Maine. Our exhibition was held on the first floor of the beautiful Nott Memorial on the Union College campus in Schenectady, NY, and Rachel Seligman, from the Mandeville Gallery, was instrumental in facilitating the logistics of the exhibition.
Helping us to officially open the reception on Friday evening, October 2, was Kathleen Mundell, who spoke briefly about basketmaking/beadwork traditions in Northeastern Native American tribes, and how her project developed over the years. Another highlight of the evening was the Native American blessing given by Tom Porter, Native American spokesperson. Although we had to close the reception earlier than anticipated in darkness due to electrical/lighting problems affecting the entire University, including the Nott Memorial, it was a warm, enthusiastic commencement to our month-long series of events.
Amidst the regular Schenectady Greenmarket vendors on Sunday, October 11 were four Haudenosaunee members who made the long drive to Schenectady to sell some of their items. Artists included Judy Cole (Mohawk basketmaker), Mary Clause (Tuscarora beadworker), and Carrie Hill (Mohawk basketmaker). Sue Ellen Herne, Akwesasne Museum Curator, brought a few items from the Akwesasne Museum to sell as well. Despite the cold, breezy weather, Greenmarket visitors welcomed the opportunity to see some of the beautiful items at their tables.
Later that day, as a part of the New York Folklore Society’s annual Field Trip event, Sue Ellen Herne gave an informative and thought-provoking talk about “Culture and Commerce” at the Old Chapel building on the Union College campus. She spoke eloquently about her own personal experiences navigating the tricky line between basketmaking as a cultural tradition and the commodification of that tradition, and came armed with some surprising statistics and facts.
To continue the day-long field trip, Lynne Williamson, who is the Folk Arts director of Intercultural Resources, Inc., in Hartford, CT, and a contributor to the North by Northeast exhibition catalogue, gave a guided tour of the exhibit to Folklore Society members. She gave a more in-depth look into some of the objects on display, pointing out aesthetic features and providing more cultural background.
On Saturday, October 17, we had the pleasure of having filmmaker and director Courtney Hunt come to the Reamer Campus Center Auditorium at Union College to speak about the making of her award-winning film Frozen River, Grand Jury Prize winner at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. We viewed the provocative film and were able to engage in a discussion with the filmmaker, a rare opportunity to hear a noted director talk about film technique and technical and conceptual issues she confronted in the process of filming, insights into her writing process, and much more. We were also grateful to have Dr. Andrea Foroughi, Associate Professor of History at Union College, on the panel to put the film into a wider socio-cultural context. She pointed out some statistical facts relevant to issues brought forth in the film, particularly regarding the difficulties facing single-women households in general and some of the cultural differences between Mohawk society and mainstream American society.
Last but not least, we were thrilled to have the Mohawk women’s singing group Kontiwennenhá:wi : Carriers of the Words (recently nominated for a prestigious Native American Music Award), come to help us officially close our exhibition on Saturday, October 24. They gave a beautiful performance, filled with music and dance, and even had the audience up on their feet in an interactive demonstration of Mohawk social dances. They sang in both Mohawk and English, and many of the members, including Teresa Bear Fox and Maxine Cole, spoke of the importance of the preservation of these traditions to themselves and to their communities. Cole, a language instructor at Akwesasne, spoke more in-depth about language instruction and the importance of language to cultural identity.
Thanks to all of you who came out to share in our North by Northeast programs!
Below is a brief video clip of Sue Ellen Herne, Akwesasne Museum Curator, speaking about a traditional basketmaker and the lighter side of basketmaking as a cultural commodity:
NORTH BY NORTHEAST
“North by Northeast: Basketry and Beadwork from the
Akwesasne Mohawk and Tuscarora”
Exhibit: Sep. 25 – Oct. 24, 2009
Nott Memorial, 1st Floor
Union College, 807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308
Friday, October 2, 2009, 5:00 - 8 p.m. Official Opening Reception
Opening remarks by Kathleen Mundell, curator
Blessing by Tom Porter, Native American Spiritual Leader
Wine and refreshments provided
Nott Memorial, 1st floor; Union College
Schenectady, NY 12308
Sunday, October 11, 2009, 10:00 a.m. - 2 p.m. Native American Basket Marketplace
Schenectady Greenmarket (around City Hall), Schenectady, NY
Sunday, October 11, 2009, 2:30 p.m. Lecture by Sue Ellen Herne, Akwesasne Museum curator
Light refreshments served
Old Chapel Building; Union College, 807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308
Saturday, October 17, 2009, 2:00 p.m. Film Screening of Frozen River, (winner of 2008 Sundance Grand Jury Prize), followed by discussion with filmmaker Courtney Hunt and Associate Professor of History at Union College, Dr. Andrea Foroughi
Reamer Campus Center Auditorium; Union College; 807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308
Saturday, October 24, 2009, 2:00 p.m. Concert by Kontiwennenhá:wi: Carriers of the Words (Mohawk women’s singing group) and Closing Reception, with remarks by Maxine Cole, Mohawk language instructor
Nott Memorial, 1st Floor; Union College; 807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308
We thank Union College, and particularly Rachel Seligman of the Mandeville Gallery, for her assistance in the organization of this series of events. This program was made possible with grants from the City of Schenectady; the New York Council for the Humanities; the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor; National Grid; and Schenectady County Initiative Program.