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Brooklyn Arts Council Folk Arts collection

Call Number



1900-2013, inclusive
; 1986-2013, bulk


Brooklyn Arts Council


64.8 Linear Feet 4 record cartons, 8 large flat boxes, 9 small flat boxes, 36 media boxes, and 51 manuscript boxes

Language of Materials

English .


Materials produced from 1986-2013 by Folk Arts, a program of Brooklyn Arts Council, created to celebrate, document, and educate the public about folk arts traditions in Brooklyn through song and dance performances, craft demonstrations, film screenings, and art exhibits. Program files include event planning materials, promotional items, budget information, research materials, and artist files. The collection includes extensive audiovisual documentation of events, artist submissions, and oral history interviews. Items dated 1900-1985 collected for submissions and research are also included.

Historical Note

The Brooklyn Arts Council was founded by Charlene Victor in 1966 as the Brooklyn Arts and Cultural Association (BACA). The program worked to facilitate collaborations between Brooklyn's large cultural heritage institutions, such as the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, with local artists, musicians, and galleries. BACA worked to secure grants for artists and programs with a focus on Brooklyn neighborhoods typically underserved by cultural heritage programming. In 1986 BACA formally changed its name to Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC).

In 1988, BAC received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) as part of an effort to place folk arts programs in counties across New York state to do field research, create documentation, produce programming, and provide assistance to other organizations interested in developing programs. In addition to Brooklyn, programs were started in Buffalo, Corning, and Binghamton. NYSCA provided funding and assisted with developing guidelines, hiring, and site visits. BAC employee Kathleen Condon was awarded an additional grant to receive a salary as the program's first Folklorist.

Following BAC's model, Folk Arts prioritized neighborhoods typically overlooked for cultural heritage programming, and communities which often lacked venues to stage events. Condon solved this by developing a relationship with the Brooklyn Public Library to use library branches as performance spaces. Early events included Alvin Forteau and the Caribbean Dancers (Trinidadian dancing and drumming), Lillian Habib (Lebanese cooking), Jamila and Mahmood Masumi and Nafas Gul Muradi (Afghan rug weaving and design), and Doris Jensen (Norwegian rosemaler). Condon oversaw all marketing and outreach, often relying on the host libraries to send out press releases and hiring community members to hand out flyers.

BAC had to reapply every year for the Folklorist salary grant. The position was part time, and after Condon's 1989 departure the position was held by a series of early career professionals and graduate students. Events continued under the Folk Arts series and Welcome Back to Brooklyn Storytelling tent, but documentation was not consistent. The first full time Folklorist, Dr. Kay Turner, was hired in 2000. She approached the role as a way to work on "large frame ideas that looked at the importance of traditions within the context of things that were meaningful to Brooklyn."

Dr. Turner took an artist-first approach, often co-creating programs with artists and staging them at larger venues to attract a more general audience. Additional sponsorship allowed Folk Arts to produce multi week and annual programs, with expanded promotional reach. Highlights include Harborlore: Where the River Meets the Sea in Brooklyn's Folk Imagination, a series of 12 free dance, music and storytelling events exploring the role of water in Brooklyn's immigrant and diaspora communities; Folk Feet: Celebrating Traditional Dance in Brooklyn, a multi year project to identify, document and present the range of traditional dance practices in Brooklyn; and Brooklyn Maqam Arab Music Festival, a celebration of Arab music traditions in Brooklyn. Dr. Turner left Folk Arts in 2014 and was replaced by Christopher Mulé, who served as director until 2020, when BAC ended its affiliation with the Folk Arts program.

See series levels for a full history of each Folk Art program.


This collection is composed of fourteen series, arranged alphabetically by project title except for Early Programs, which appears at the beginning, and Brooklyn Arts Council Materials, which appears at the end. Each series includes Program Files, usually arranged chronologically or by topic and Audiovisual materials, usually arranged by format. Artist files and interviews are arranged alphabetically. Visual materials produced for Local Eyes is interfiled in the Program Files sub-series. September 11th Memorial Projects is arranged chronologically in seven sub-series, with Program Files and Audiovisual items interfiled.

Scope and Contents

This collection is composed of materials produced for Folk Arts, a multi-year grant funded program to celebrate, document, and educate the public about folk arts traditions in Brooklyn. The Early Programs series includes documentation of events produced from 1986-2000. Program Files include event financial information, planning documents, notes from various Folklorists, research materials, and extensive audiovisual documentation. See series level for a full description.

Series 2-13 includes materials for single and multi-year events produced from 2000-2013. Program Files include event planning, press, budget information, research materials, and correspondence. Artist files include releases and biographical information. Cassettes, VHS tapes, discs, minidiscs, photographs and slides make up the audiovisual materials, and include event documentation, artist submissions, and oral history interviews. Photographs are both print and digital. Digital photographs are stored on discs. See series levels for full descriptions.

Brochures and film festival materials produced for Brooklyn Arts Council events not associated with the Folk Arts program are housed in Series 14.


Certain participants in Black Brooklyn Renaissance: Black Arts and Culture 1960-2010 have not granted permission for their likeness to appear in any related media. See box 28, folder 1 for a full list. Due to sensitive personal information, certain materials in boxes 98 and 100 are restricted. Other materials open to researchers without restriction.


While many items at the Center for Brooklyn History are unrestricted, we do not own reproduction rights to all materials. Be aware of the several kinds of rights that might apply: copyright, licensing and trademarks. The researcher assumes all responsibility for copyright questions.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date (if known); Brooklyn Arts Council Folk Arts Collection, CBHM.0002, Box and Folder number; Center for Brooklyn History, Brooklyn Public Library.

Location of Materials

The majority of the materials in this collection are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please contact at least two weeks prior to research visit.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Brooklyn Arts Council, 2021.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

The majority of the materials in this collection are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please contact at least two weeks prior to research visit.

All mini DV cassettes, mini discs, and AMPEX Grand Master 457 1/4'' reels are unavailable due to technical limitations.

If digital surrogates exist, they should be used in place of the originals whenever possible.

Related Materials

Bob Gore photograph collection, BCMS.0049

West Indian Carnival Documentation Project records, 2010.019

Oral Histories:

New Neighbors: Sunset Park's Chinese Community oral histories 1994.007

Puerto Rican Oral History Project 1976.001

Muslims in Brooklyn oral histories 2018.006

Collection processed by

Sarah Quick, Reference Archivist

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 11:37:44 +0000.
Language: Description is written in: English, Latin script.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Brooklyn Arts Council archivist prior to donation. Original order, folders, boxes, and folder titles have been maintained. Folder numbers, collection name, and dates were added by the Center for Brooklyn History archivist. Original newspaper clippings were discarded after preservation photocopies were made.


Center for Brooklyn History
Center for Brooklyn History
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201