Down Jersey Folklife Program
Traditional Costumes of the Balkans
June 1 through October 12, 2012
The exhibition features several private collections of Balkan traditional costumes and accessories. It is designed in a way that provides our visitors with the best comparison between the various Balkan cultures while explaining meanings, aesthetics and techniques of the various art forms involved in the process of costume's creation.
The exhibition is part of a multifaceted program Communities and Cultures of the Balkans which also includes a variety of workshops and classes, a conference and a festival day.
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Our Collection of Folk and Traditional Arts
Several cases feature ethnic traditions of communities residing in South Jersey. Early ethnic displays include a case of Native American artifacts made or donated by members of the local Lenni-Lenape community at the center’s entrance and, in the octagonal window on the entrance’s other side, a display of origami samples that represent traditional arts of the Japanese Americans who were sent to this part of South Jersey as interns during World War II to work at Seabrook Farms (home of the first frozen foods) and who later stayed on. Another early ethnic acquisition was a small collection of pysanki, the Ukrainian Easter eggs decorated with brightly painted stylized patterns.
A major source of additions to the permanent collection was the 2005 exhibition, Splinter Movements: Woodworking Traditions in Down Jersey. Several of the pieces loaned to the exhibit were later donated, including a carving of a Kankle, a type of Lithuanian zither - made and then donated by Rimgaudas Pranckevicius; a Tibetan grain holder and offerings table both donated by the artist Dholak; and a wooden bowl, made of sassafras and turned on a lathe by Sam Cristal and a wood panel by Albert Weisser.
More loan items were donated to the center at the end of the fall 2005 exhibition, Apprentice Wizardry: Mastership/Apprenticeship in Folk Arts, which exhibited a number of items made by apprentices and the masters who taught them under the Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Out of that show came a piece of low-fired earthenware Jamaican pottery made by Merilen Rhoden and donated by pottery apprentice Althea Meade Hajduk; a Guatemalan weaving made by Armando Sosa; a Finnish Ryja Rug made by Elise Uiga; Chinese folk art samples such as Temari hand balls made by Wenning Wang Han and Chinese knotting by Mann-Lih Huang; Ukrainian weavings and embroidered pieces made by Eudokia Sorochaniuk and Vera Nakonechny; Philippine Baybayin Writing by Ameurfina Nazario and Japanese kime-komi dolls made by Fusaye Kazaoka.
Other additions to the permanent collection have come out of the Creative Community Connections series of biennial salutes to various local ethnic cultures that began in 2004 with Native to Neo: Mexican Folk Arts from Oaxaca. It celebrated the cultural heritage of Oaxaca, the Mexican state where most local Mexicans originally came from. A painted red ceramic now in the collection titled “Mind and Death” and depicting a skeleton posed as Rodin’s “The Thinker” sitting on a skull was made for “Native to Neo” by Demetrio Garcia Aguilar. Several ceramic skeleton figures made by Karlomagno Pedro Martinez, an Oaxacan weaving by Antonio Ruiz Gonzales and a woodcarving by Jesús Sosa Calvo were also added to the permanent case of Mexican folk arts.
The 2006 Creative Community Connections program celebrating the Italian-American community, added other items to the collection after the exhibition (Artigianato Popolare: Italian Folk Arts and Crafts) was closed. They included bobbin lace samples by Laura Friesel, majolica ceramics by Roberto Paolinelli, tatted pieces by Sister M. Assumpta Ferrara and a Sicilian marionette depicting the medieval hero Orlando. Two years later, Living Traditions Portrayed: Indian Folk Arts and Crafts exhibition produced more additions including paintings on palm leafs, embroidery pieces, Bengali katha quilt sample and a sandalwood carving of the elephant god Ganesha donated by private collectors.
A series of thematic exhibitions such as Weaving Cultural Heritage: Romanian Rugs from Oltenia, Maramures and Moldavia Regions and Understanding Others: Philippine Traditional Arts and Culture featuring the private collections of Margaret Mukherjee (Romanian Rugs), Ameurfina Nazario and Mirinisa Myers (Philippine Folk Arts) added invaluable pieces to the permanent collection due to the generous donations of the collectors.
Sometimes private collectors contribute to the permanent collection even when a certain cultural group is not currently featured by a special program. Their knowledge of the center's mission provides them with confidence that all exhibited items would be properly displayed and adequately interpreted within the context of each cultural case. That is how we acquired valuable items featuring Mexican traditional arts from the collections of Mariann E. Schick, Esq. and Arlene Love at the end of 2009 and the dolls made by the South Jersey artist Mary Resnik and collected by Rose Goldenberg over a number of years.
Currently, there are several hundred items in the collection, which provides us with the opportunity to showcase several traditions at a time and rotate exhibits throughout the year. It is a study collection, which gives our visitors cultural orientation and better understanding of folk and traditional arts of the South Jersey communities. As the list of the folklife center’s successfully completed exhibitions grows, so too, we hope, will the size of its permanent collection.
See a sampling of the Permanent Collection>>