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  • Writer's pictureCatherine White

Project to Preserve and Celebrate Local Culture Continues

Local Arts Organization Receives Funding to Continue Cultural Documentation Project


The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes recently received $150,000 from the New York State Council on the Arts and $20,000 from the National Endowment of the Arts to continue expanding its Community Documentation Workshop.


Slated to begin in September 2023, the Community Documentation Workshop (CDW) is a 16-week, 8-session workshop series in partnership with CCLD Makerspace at the Steele Memorial Library, Chemung County Historical Society, Elmira College, GLOW Traditions, Elmira Center for Cultural Advancement, and Islamic Association of the Finger Lakes. This multi-sector effort equips grassroots organizations in our region with the skills and perspectives necessary to document and present their cultural traditions in ways that center their own voices and authorship, advancing self-determination. This work is crucial now -- a time of such deep community divisions and isolation. Four teams will each produce one 3-5 minute video based on their research and will focus on themes such as cultural resiliency, regional pride, sense of place, the artistry of tradition bearers and local leaders, and intergenerational cultural sustainability.


Photos provided by The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes. The Community Documentation Workshop equips grassroots organizations throughout the region with the skills and perspectives necessary to document and present their cultural traditions in ways that center their own voices and authorship, advancing self-determination.


Workshop participants learn the basics of documentary video production, including conducting interviews, filming with a DSLR camera, and editing on digital editing software. “We’ve found that people really crave these skills. They value the support we’re able to offer them in telling the stories of their own communities,” says T.C. Owens, Project Director, and Folk Arts Coordinator at The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes.


Following the completion of the workshop series, each team will showcase their short videos at a public screening at Steele Memorial Library late in early 2024.


“We’re absolutely thrilled to have this opportunity and support from both the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts,” says Owens. “This is a tremendous chance for community members of all backgrounds to come together, learn how to tell stories of our rich traditions together, and bring our unique skills to bear in this collaborative setting. The additional year of guaranteed funding really allows us to plan in a sustainable way, and grow this project into something that we can offer annually to partners and community members throughout our region.”


The program was piloted in the fall of 2021 in collaboration with Congregation Kol Ami, the Elmira Center for Cultural Advancement, the Islamic Association of the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier Indian Cultural Association. Workshop participants produced videos on local Jewish food traditions, Black restaurateurs, and the histories of Muslim and South Asian settlement in the Elmira-Corning area. All these videos are available at Southern Finger Lakes Traditions: A Cultural Mapping Project. This web-based initiative documents tradition bearers and culturally significant places in our region in a media-rich blog-based format. Building off similar initiatives, including the Points of Inspiration driving tour, this website highlights our region’s cultural diversity by focusing on artistic traditions found in Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben counties.

Support for the Community Documentation Workshop is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Information provided by The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes. To learn more about this program, contact folkarts@eARTS.org.

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