Navigate / search

Traditional Arts Program

Upcoming Program:

Festive Foodways
Mexican Day of the Dead

November 2, 1-4 p.m. St. Thomas Church, Leicester

1:00 Learn about the altar or ofrenda tradition

2:00-4:00 Crafts workshops and food sampling

4:00 Service of Remembrance

Contrary to its morbid-sounding name, the Day of the Dead Celebration in Mexico is a time of joyful remembrance of deceased loved ones, filled with an array of colors, scents, sounds and stories. Centered on the Christian observance of All Saints and All Souls Days, the Mexican celebration includes elements that trace back to indigenous roots. Our presentation will include a community ofrenda or altar honoring the remembered souls, traditional foods, a crafts workshop and a memorial service. Attendees will learn how the different elements of the ofrenda invite the returning spirits into their former homes and enable them to celebrate with their earthly families. They will be able to sample foods common to the holiday such as tamales and a special bread, called pan de muerto, and add a memento to the community ofrenda. The celebration family-friendly and open to all ages. The Día de los Muertos celebration is made possible with the assistance of the Catholic Diocese of Rochester Hispanic Ministry program, Livingston County Catholic Charities, the Geneseo Migrant Center, St. Luke the Evangelist Church, and many community volunteers.

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.