Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY)
Where do you currently work?
I am Executive Director of Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY), Canton, NY, an independent non-profit folk arts organization serving the vast rural 14-county region of Northern New York State. Our research and programming takes us from Lake Champlain to Lake Ontario, from the 1000 Islands on the St. Lawrence River to the Adirondack Mountains. I am also an adjunct professor in the anthropology department at the State University of New York at Potsdam, teaching introductory folklore classes.
Tell me a bit about your career?
I'm a folklorist who worked in the field for 10 years before I got a degree in the discipline. Following my undergraduate program in Modern Languages, I taught, ran a freelance writing business, and worked part-time at a historical society. In 1993, TAUNY's founder called to ask me if I would join him in developing a folklife organization he'd started. I had never heard of folklore as a field of study. I said yes. We built the organization from the ground up. I was hired for the administrative side of the business, but almost immediately started tagging along on research jaunts. I was deeply attracted to the work of documenting and presenting local traditional culture, so moved more and more into the program side of the operation. Eventually it became clear that I would have to legitimize my standing as a folklorist to deepen my role in programming. All the public folklorists I knew said I should go to WKU. Off I went. After completing the degree, I worked as Program Director at TAUNY until becoming Executive Director in 2008.
How has folklore prepared you?
Having the degree in Folk Studies expanded my employment opportunities in the cultural sector. My training in the theory and practice of folklore is a specialization that I can sell to other cultural organizations, universities, and private enterprise. You can combine training in folklore with almost any profession focused on people. I'm currently looking for a folklorist with an interest in retail to run TAUNY's museum shop. Through TAUNY, I do a lot of contract work for other institutions. The degree gives me standing to secure grants for projects I'm interested in and to teach at the university level. It also gave me credentials to write about regional culture for non-academic publications (homesteaders and saunas are two recent topics). The program at WKU is a jewel. The department commitment to teaching is exemplary. Every faculty member substantially affected my thinking about our field of study. I have very fond memories of my days in Bowling Green.