Arts Mid-Hudson

Folk Arts

What is the Folk Arts Program and what does it do?

The Arts Mid-Hudson’s Folk Arts Program works with Mid-Hudson Valley-based folk artists and traditional bearers to preserve and present the rich heritage and diversity of area residents.

The staff folklorist identifies and documents various arts and traditions practiced among different communities living in the Mid-Hudson Valley by doing ethnographic fieldwork.

Kuchipudi is an ancient Indian classical dance.

Kuchipudi is an ancient Indian classical dance.

Ethnographic fieldwork explores how cultural communities celebrate themselves and can include taking pictures, conducting interviews, and attending formal and informal community events. Based on this research, the folklorist, in collaboration with community organizations, presents the folklife of cultural, ethnic, occupational, regional, and religious groups at public programs ranging from festivals to library interactive events to lecture-demonstrations.

The Program also offers Technical Assistance to area cultural organizations and traditional artisans.

What are “folk arts,” “folklore” and “folklife”?


Korovai is the traditional Ukrainian wedding bread. This elaborately decorated example was made by a member of the Mid-Hudson Valley Ukrainian community.

These three terms refer to various traditional forms of creative expression practiced among groups of people, forms of expression through which members of a group affirm and pass on their shared identity.

Folklife can be“material culture” (meaning it is tangible), like the particular architectural features that define a Russian Orthodox Church, a quilt made by a quilting bee or a traditional Chinese knot. Folklife can also be ephemeral or intangible, like singing done by a Poughkeepsie gospel choir, knowledge of where to source edible wild mushrooms, superstitions about predicting the changing weather. Some traditional forms, like dance and foodways, are episodic or ephemeral.

Some other examples of folk arts include culturally- or regionally-specific music, traditional domestic crafts, foodways, crafts associated with a hobby, traditional activities possible only in certain geographic locations, community celebrations and festivals.




Who has folklore and how is it learned?

Everyone has some folklore in their lives. Folklore exists within families, church groups and cultural groups, among co-workers, students and neighbors.

Visitors practice kanji, Chinese characters, at a Folk Arts Program-sponsored Kakizome, the traditional first writing on the New Year.

Visitors practice kanji, Chinese characters, at a Folk Arts Program-sponsored Kakizome, the traditional first writing on the New Year.

The group or community may be defined by almost any commonality, including age, gender, occupation, religion, hobby, ethnicity or geographic location. Folklore is learned informally, passed from generation to generation. Although folklore may change a bit with each successive generation, these traditions are remarkably stable. They continue to be practiced and shared because they are meaningful to the community that performs them.

Because folk arts, folklore and folklife are creative expressions of a shared identity based on a common past, they come to symbolize group identity. Through these expressions we can learn about the groups that practices them.


Want to get involved or want more information?

We welcome your suggestions for future projects and ideas about how we can work with you to celebrate your community’s heritage. We often collaborate with community and cultural organizations to offer culturally sensitive, informative public programs. Please be in touch with us if you have ideas about how we can help preserve and present your group’s folklore or if your group might benefit from technical assistance.

Call 845.454.3222 or
Email: info<at>

Arts Mid-Hudson l Folk Arts Program supported in part by:



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A performance of Annie Get Your Gun at the CENTER for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck.