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Staff and Associates

Debora Kodish (Director) is the founder and long-time Director of the Philadelphia Folklore Project. Under her leadership since 1987, PFP has worked to create programs that have linked folk arts and social change, using collaborative work with community partners and allies to challenge prevailing notions, revise narrow histories, and build community access to cultural resources. Her work has resulted in numerous exhibitions, public programs, and opportunities (and more than 3.2 million dollars in funding) for local folk artists and grassroots cultural organizations. She edits PFP's long-running magazine, and co-directed and produced five of PFP's documentary films (about pioneering African American women tap dancers and women klezmer musicians from Philadelphia, eminent domain abuse in North Philadelphia, and folk arts and cultural equity in Philadelphia's Chinatown.) Kodish taught folklore in universities and conducted folklife research in a range of settings before beginning the PFP. She worked in some of the country's first public folklife programs, doing field research in Oregon and Maine for exhibitions and publications in the 1970s. She received her Ph.D. in Folklore from the University of Texas in 1981. Her publications deal with the history of folklife study, public sector folklife, feminist approaches to folklife and the conventions that folklorists rely on in developing their work; since working at PFP she has focused on issues in public interest folklore. Her most recent publications, "Cultivating Folk Arts and Social Change" (Journal of American Folklore, 2013), "Imagining Public Folklore" (Companion to Folklore, 2012), and "Envisioning Folklore Activism" ( Journal of American Folklore, 2011) can be found here. She serves on the board of the Folk Arts - Cultural Treasures Charter School. She can be reached at kodish [at]

Selina Morales
(Associate Director) joined PFP in June 2010, with responsibility for coordinating PFP's public programs and launching its Folk Arts and Social Change residencies. She became Associate Director in 2012, and will become PFP's next Director in 2014. Morales is a doctoral candidate in folklore at Indiana University, where she completed her M.A., also in folklore. Her dissertation (in progress) draws on her current work at PFP, dealing with contemporary approaches to public folklore. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Oberlin College. Before joining PFP, she worked at Traditional Arts Indiana and the Mathers Museum, where she conducted folklife research, developed public programs, and curated exhibitions, including Botanica: A Pharmacy for the Soul, an innovative installation drawing on a 163-piece ethnographic collection documenting Botanica practices in the United States. She can be reached at smorales [at]

Toni Shapiro-Phim (Program Specialist) is a dance ethnologist with a specialization in the performing arts of Southeast Asia. She received her Ph.D in cultural anthropology from Cornell University in 1994. Her dissertation, "Dance and the Spirit of Cambodia," recent books (Dance in Cambodia with Ashley Thompson and Dance, Human Rights and Social Justice co-edited with Naomi Jackson) and other publications focus on the history and cultural context of dance around the world, particularly in relation to violence and gender concerns. She has conducted ethnographic research in Cambodian communities in Southeast Asia and the U.S. At PFP for six years, and at Khmer Arts in Cambodia for three, she designed and implemented public arts, educational and documentation programs in diverse settings. She has held teaching and research appointments at the University of California-Berkeley, San Jose State University, Yale and Mills College, and has served as a consultant for the Asia Society, Japan Foundation, New England Folklife Project and other organizations. She is now back at PFP, responsible for oversight of folk arts education programs, and PFP special initiatives. She can be reached at toni [at]

Ife Nii-Owoo
(Graphic Design) runs Ife Designs and Associates, an award-winning design company. She has designed the PFP's publications (including books, videos, calendars and other print media) for more than a decade. She can be reached at

Patricia Frahme (Accountant) manages PFP's financial systems.

Judy Smith / Rhizoid manages our website.

Teaching Artists currently include:

  • Jovitta Brockington, African American step
  • Gbahtuo Comgbaye, Liberian storytelling
  • Greg Corbin, Spoken word
  • Helen Gym, Chinese hung gar kung fu and lion dance
  • Riasinta Hite, Indonesian dance
  • Shuyuan Li, Beijing Opera
  • Than Nhan Ngo, Vietnamese dan tranh
  • Losang Samten, Tibetan sand mandala
  • Omar Harrison and Ama Schley, West African and Afro-Caribbean dance
  • Hua Hua Zhang, Chinese puppetry

Board members (2013)


The Philadelphia Folklore Project is supported by the donations of members (people like you who are committed to sustaining diverse and vital community arts) and by a number of generous funders. We are grateful to all of you. Recent funders have included: