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Traditional Arts Program

About the Traditional Arts Program

The Traditional Arts Program at Livingston Arts supports our area’s living cultural heritage through documentation and public programming of traditional arts. Traditional or folk arts are the ways a group maintains and passes on its shared way of life. They are usually learned informally, yet remain important expressions of a community’s sense of beauty, identity and values. They range from verbal “lore” like local ghost stories, children’s rhymes or family sayings, to material arts like woodcarving, quilting or fly tying, to performance arts like fiddling, break dancing, or square dance calling. Your family, your church, your neighborhood – these are all groups that practice and maintain creative traditions that give meaning to everyday life.

Since the early 1990s our program has hosted a Traditional Music Series, a variety of events throughout the year. Our annual Round and Square Dance in the spring brings dancers from far and near, supporting a long tradition here of live music and eastern-style square dancing. Our Old Time music concerts have featured music of Irish, Italian, Polish, German, and Macedonian origins, accompanied by fiddles, accordions, banjos, mandolins and other instruments both familiar and uncommon. Further highlights of our programs and activities developed over the last decade include: Hispanic holiday and life traditions, such as Three Kings Day celebrations and Quinceanera arts Occupational folklife and folklore of the Retsof Salt Mine and former mining community of Little Italy Traditional dance from around the world in workshops, school residencies, and performances Accordion Fest, featuring musicians and instruments from diverse ethnic and regional traditions Workshops and apprenticeships in traditional music.
Our popular annual Round and Square Dance is held in early May at York Central School (see calendar listing for more detailed information). An additional focus this year is an update of information on traditional arts and artists in our region. Let us know if you’re interested in hearing more.

The program is administered by Karen Canning, and also enjoys the expertise of SUNY Geneseo ethnomusicologist, James Kimball. Ms. Canning may be reached through the arts council office, or may be e-mailed at Our programs are supported largely by a grant from the Folk Arts Program of the New York State Council on the Arts, and arts council members.