This year the Folk Arts Program, headed by folklorist Polly Adema, features a Korean Children's Day on Saturday, April 3 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the East Fishkill Community Library in Hopewell Junction. During this interactive program, kids will learn about Korean children's culture with activities such as playing traditional Korean games like kongki noli (a Korean version of jacks, traditionally played by girls) and yut nori (a traditional board game that uses beautiful wooden sticks in place of dice); making paper crafts; learning about important social customs like bowing to elders; and tasting traditional Korean snacks like mandu (savory dumplings) and bori cha (roasted barley tea). Young adults from the local Korean community will lead area children in lots of fun things to do!
The Children's Day program is part of an ongoing DCAC series exploring how people from countries whose populations are represented in the mid-Hudson Valley celebrate and honor their children. Previous programs have focused on the customs of kids in Japan, Russia and India. The event is free and open to the general public.
The Folk Arts Program works with mid-Hudson Valley-based folk artists and traditional bearers of culture to preserve and present the rich heritage and diversity of area residents. We're talking about traditions that may be simple, yet so ingrained that practitioners - you, your neighbors and friends and your family - might not consider them to be particularly special, but that are valued as a basic part of daily life amongst community members, affirming and passing on your shared identity. Traditions are considered "folkways" when they have to do with the community's art, lore and life practices and when they are passed down from one generation to the next within the communal group. Examples cited on the DCAC webpage include material elements, like quilts made by a quilting bee or traditional Chinese knots; intangible elements, like the knowledge of where to source edible wild mushrooms or superstitions about predicting the weather; and practices that might be culturally or regionally specific, like music and dance styles.
Folk traditions are forms of creative expression of the people who practice them - a distinction wholly different from traditions dictated by religious institutions and governments in that they are much more flexible and dynamic, recognizing that change happens in communities. The inherent fact of change brought on by emigration or social modernization is a part of folk tradition. Folkways are absorbed by transitions, but maintain elements of the past that were of importance to the community. So, for example, a family might celebrate Christmas with a special recipe handed down from revered ancestors, but produce it using modern kitchen techniques and ingredients. The fact that a tradition continues indicates that it is meaningful to the people who practice it, even in its altered form.
Adema and other staff members of the Folk Arts Program work to identify the various arts and traditions practiced among different communities living in the mid-Hudson Valley by doing ethnographic fieldwork. They explore how communities celebrate themselves and document their findings by taking pictures, conducting interviews and attending formal and informal community events. Based on this research, they collaborate with pertinent community organizations to present free public programs, ranging from festivals to library interactive events to lectures and demonstrations.
With a Master's degree in Folklore from Indiana University at Bloomington and a Doctorate in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, Adema recognizes the challenges of balancing cultural traditions with the homogenizing effects of an ever-shrinking global community. And the technological influences of modern living - commercial television, mainstream media, the Internet - can intrude on traditional ways or they can benefit them.
Adema cites the importance of supporting communities who wish to maintain and share their culture in any way, using any medium that she can. "It's not my job to keep something alive; it's more to recognize things that are done within the community. I go to find out what people are doing and ask, 'Do you want to share it?' It's the sharing of folkways that reduces prejudice and stereotyping. By engaging in personal interaction, you break down the barriers of negativity."
On Friday, April 16 the Folk Arts Program will present a Taiko drumming concert with master Taiko drummer Koji Nakamura, with a koto performance by the classically trained Yukiko Matsuyama. Nakamura is a world-renowned performer and teacher who holds Taiko drumming to be a spiritual pursuit - one that creates harmony amongst people. The program will be held at Locust Grove on Route 9 in Poughkeepsie at 7 p.m. (seating is limited to 120, first-come first-seated). And on Saturday, April 17 a "Japanese Tea Ceremony Experience" will be held in the main parlor at the Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center on Vassar Street. In two hourlong demonstrations of Chado, at 1 and 2:15 p.m., the nuanced movements and discipline required by Japanese tea masters and guests can be enjoyed by youth and adults.
The DCAC Folk Arts Program receives substantial funding through the New York State Council on the Arts, and is the grateful recipient of various community- and private-based support. For further information call (845) 454-3222, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.artsmidhudson.org/html/folkarts.html.