GLOW Traditions

The Heartland Passage Tour

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In 1817, workers in New York State shoved the first spade into the dirt to create the Erie Canal connecting New York City to the Great Lakes and the Midwest. Detractors called it “Clinton’s folly,” they said it couldn’t be done, they said it was foolish, but as folklorist Bruce Jackson asserts in the new documentary Boom and Bust: America’s Journey on the Erie Canal, “it made America rich.” It’s been said that with that first thrust of dirt the North won the Civil War, and New York City solidified its role as a world port and America’s greatest city. When completed in 1825, the cities of Syracuse, Rochester, Utica, and Buffalo took shape along its celebrated towpath.

Two hundred years later, City Lore, Livingston Arts and the Erie Canal Museum are marking the bicentennial with the Heartland Passage Tour. In September, a dozen screenings of the film, Boom and Bust, along with tug boat captains, storytellers and musicians will take place at ports of call along the Erie Canal from Buffalo’s historic Commercial Slip to the Barge Museum in Brooklyn, near the Erie Basin where the canal boats were loaded for their trip up the Hudson to the Canal. Five of the concerts and screenings in the major cities along the canal will be headlined by Jay and Molly Ungar, famous for Ashokan Farewell, the theme song for Ken Burns’ Civil War series. Some of the concerts will take place in the restored Vaudeville houses built during the early days of the Canal.

Five additional concerts will take place at historic towns and villages, where a Lockmaster Canal Boat built specifically for navigation on the Erie Canal will travel with storytellers and our informal band of troubadour musicians who sing about the canal. The festive vessel will travel a portion of the canal, offering dockside screenings and performances scheduled for Medina, Brockport, Macedon, Lyons and Herkimer.

The Heartland Passage Tour is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and a Regional Economic Development Grant through the New York State Council on the Arts. It is sponsored by Livingston Arts, City Lore and the Erie Canal Museum.

Check out some of the musicians and stories that will be featured on the tour!

http://www.eriecanalway.org/gallery/videos/canal-stories

The Dady Brothers
“Boating on a Bullhead”, audio sample from their album, Songs of the Erie Canal, at:   http://www.dadybros.com/cd4.html

Dave Ruch
“Oh, Dat Low Bridge”, an Erie canal song from the mid-19th century, at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ea8Ffep_K80

George Ward
“15 Miles on the Erie Canal” with commentary at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5RJYisIYlk

Quilting Stories Project

GLOW Traditions wants your stories! Our Quilting Stories project is underway, throughout this year and into 2018. We are interested in the many stories contained in quilts: many are literally sewn into the fabric itself, comprised of worn shirts and outgrown dresses. Others use new fabrics but are specially made for life events like graduation, weddings and birthdays. Still more may be a commemorative piece, using clothing, images and photos of a loved one who has passed on.

One branch of stories that quilts can tell are those of one’s family, their history and shared experience. Such quilts are often heirlooms passed down from one generation to the next. More than a simple history, they shape and retell a family story through artistic creation, perhaps re-interpreting the experience and continuing it in a new way as a cherished object.

Here’s an example of a “quilt story”

This comes from Suzanne Benedict in Rush. The black and white photo shows the Benedict farm, c. 1888, which has been in her husband, Bruce’s, family since 1860. Pictured are three generations in front of the farmhouse, with the barn in the background. The family restaged the picture in the 1970’s when Suzanne’s children were young, with the next three generations. Inspired at that time to try her hand at trapunto style, Suzanne created a quilted representation of the photo seen here, keeping the prominence of the house and barn, but with some changes. She added chickens, which started as a son’s 4-H project, but turned into a money-making venture for him for years. The horses are featured, as the family had gotten into a boarding business. The decoration on the barn is a piece of lace made by Suzanne’s grandmother. She also put a large tree back into the scene, which had been lost, but which she remembered as shading the whole house. And, she included the extensive gardens they kept at the time.

When Bruce died, unexpectedly, in 1999, Suzanne says, “I wanted his headstone to reflect what he loved, which was the farm and his family. That quilt became the pattern for what is carved on the back of the stone.” These images show a movement through time of a family’s story, changing as they change, but also referring back to their origins—a hallmark of family folklore.

Contact Karen Canning with your stories at glowtraditions@goart.org

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GLOW Traditions supports our area’s living cultural heritage through documentation and public programming of traditional arts. It operates collaboratively among the Arts Council for Wyoming County, Livingston Arts, and the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council. This regional program has been led since 1997 by founding Director, Karen Canning. Our programs receive major support from the Folk Arts Program of the New York State Council on the Arts, as well as regional community, business and government support, and funding from national foundations such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the GRAMMY Foundation.

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.

GLOW Traditions presents performances, workshops, demonstrations, exhibits and educational opportunities year-round.  Here is a sampling of some of our programs:

  • Annual Round and Square Dance in Livingston County, supporting a long tradition of live music and eastern-style square dancing
  • Music and dance concerts featuring Irish, Italian, Polish, German, Hispanic and Eastern European traditions
  • Festive Foodways: presentations of celebratory culinary traditions of different cultures
  • 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
  • Accordion Fest, featuring musicians and instruments from diverse ethnic and regional traditions
  • Workshops and apprenticeships in traditional music

Other current GLOW Tradition events in our region can be found at:

GO! Art GLOW Traditions