Artists have the chance to shine at the Folklife Festival

“If you live in New York State, you are part of New York culture,” said Ellen McHale, executive director of the New York Folklore Society.

Based in Schenectady, the Folklore Society aims to support folk and traditional artists living in New York State, as well as community cultural experts, community cultural organizations, and folklorists in academia and the public sector.

“Our mission is to help and amplify the work of artists and organizations within their community,” said McHale.

To showcase the art and artists the organization has worked and documented with, the Folklore Society is hosting the Mohawk Hudson Folklife Festival on Sunday October 3 at the Washington Park Playhouse in Albany. This is a free event where residents of the Capital Region can experience the wide range of cultures from around the world that have come to New York City and made their place in the culture of the state.

“We want people to be recognized,” McHale said. “They are probably already recognized within their own communities. But we think it is important to show the diversity that has been welcomed in the Capital Region and they see themselves represented.

Efthemios (Altin) Stoja is an iconographer specializing in the Macedonian style of biblical iconography. Stoja was born and raised in Albania. Of Greek origin, he was fascinated by the iconography he saw as a child in his father’s village. At 19, he moved to Greece and studied for 12 years with iconographer Tsuni Spilio.

“The churches were like playgrounds for us,” Stoja said. “They were ancient churches, four or five centuries old. And I saw the art there and I thought I can do it.

In 2006 he moved to Cohoes and has since made his home in the Capital Region. He worked on iconography at a number of local churches such as the Hagia Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Albany and Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Cohoes.

In addition to exhibiting his work – both religious and non-religious – Stoja will also be giving a presentation on his latest project, a 6 foot tall icon of Saint Michael the Archangel.

“Every time I start doing the icon in my studio, I put on old Byzantine hymns and it gives me peace and inspiration,” he said. “I want to bring that same peace to the folklife festival.”

The Reverend Thomas House, director and music minister of Mount Olive Southern Missionary Baptist Church in Albany and his band, Inner Visions, is one of the artists performing at the event. The group has been playing mostly traditional gospel music in and around the Capital Region since 1983. The Folk Festival will be their first performance in Washington Park.

“We’re so excited,” House said. “It’s interesting to see how we’re going to do it. This outdoor space will just be different from a church, but we’ll get there.

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