Theme: NORTH BY NORTHEAST— Beads and Basketwork
October 11, 2009
The New York Folklore Society held its annual Field Trip in Schenectady, New York: 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.
After meeting at the New York Folklore Society offices and gallery, the field trip got underway with a visit to the Schnectady Greenmarket. Amidst the regular 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, 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. A brief video clip of Sue Ellen speaking about a traditional basketmaker and the lighter side of basketmaking as a cultural commodity appears below:
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.
The New York Folklore Society’s programs are made possible in part with public funds from the Folk Arts Program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
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