We are excited to welcome Mary Wesley and Mike Leonard to the Vermont Folklife Center as media instructors and education outreach coordinators. Mary will support our Discovering Community place-based ethnographic media projects in schools (and in organizing future summer programs!) in the Burlington area, and Mike will support the program in rural Vermont. They each bring unique and valuable experience and energy to our work.
Mike Leonard was born and raised in Woodstock, Vermont. After years of living and working abroad as an academic, teacher, and administrator, Mike has happily found himself back in the Green Mountains. He is a practiced ethnographer, having most recently conducted work investigating the sociocultural implications of the tourism boom in Iceland. Now that he is back in Vermont, Mike is working on a documentary film exploring the 251 Club - a club dedicated to visiting every one of Vermont's 251 towns and cities. He is excited to bring his years of experience as a teacher and an ethnographer to the Vermont Folklife Center's education program.
Mary Wesley studied Anthropology and Philosophy at McGill University, then returning to her native Vermont to work as a field archaeologist for the UVM Consulting Archaeology Program.
After falling in love with the New England folk music and dance scene Mary learned to teach and call traditional contra and square dancing (building on the legacy of her grandparents, who were both square dance callers in their hometown of Middlebury, VT for decades). She has taught and performed in schools, community centers, grange halls and at festivals and camps throughout Vermont and across the U.S. and Canada.
In 2013 Mary attended the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies to learn radio production and Multimedia Storytelling. In collaboration with the Country Dance and Song Society, she helped conceive and manage a community storytelling project, collecting oral histories in traditional dance and music communities around New England. She has worked with other Vermont non-profit organizations including Young Tradition Vermont and the Wake Up to Dying Project to create opportunities for community education and engagement.
Mary’s first connection with the Vermont Folklife Center was as an intern in 2009. She returned in 2013 as the manager for the New Neighbors Music Project, which built on the VFC’s extensive collection of music recorded in New American communities in Vermont. In partnership with Young Tradition Vermont, the Project created a new elementary and middle school curriculum program exploring music and identity through these musical traditions. She is thrilled to join the Education Department as a Media Instructor and Education Outreach Coordinator.