Folk Arts Fundamentals

Folk Feet Circle 'Round Brooklyn at The Tabacco Warehouse. Photo by Etienne Frossard.

The terms ?folk? and ?traditional? describe the artists and art forms that our programming supports. Few of the traditional artists we work with have ever received formal training; most learn by observing and doing. They are ?of the people? in the sense that performing and teaching art is a part of their everyday lives. Folk artists work from tradition, from a conscious sense of bringing the past into the present. Traditional arts change over time as artists innovate. But these arts also adhere to precedent ? a way of doing something that?s been done before. That?s because traditional arts are practiced by individuals, but belong to communities: ethnic, national, neighborhood, religious and occupational. Brooklyn owes its rich variety of traditional arts to the more than 200 years of immigration that have made the borough one of the most diverse places in the United States. African American, German, Dutch and Irish communities are the borough?s oldest, with roots that can be traced back to the 18th century. Nineteenth- and early 20th century immigration patterns created such longstanding communities as the Puerto Ricans in Williamsburg, Scandinavians in Bay Ridge, Chinese in Sunset Park, Yemenis of Atlantic Ave and Italians in Bensonhurst. The later 20th century saw a steady increase of Caribbean islanders?Trinidadians, Guyanese, Haitians, Dominicans, Panamanians?in the Flatbush and East New York areas. In the 21st century, new communities continue to evolve, like Nepalese Sherpas in Kensington and Mexicans in Sunset Park. Our borough?s ever-changing landscape has maintained its tradition - that Brooklyn is the world ? and that Brooklyn is a world of folk arts.