City Lore seeks to promote and preserve the city’s cultural diversity. Founded in 1986, their programs and publications convey New York’s rich cultural heritage. Its staff of folklorists, historians, anthropologists and ethnomusicologists, often working in collaboration with kindred organizations, specialize in the creation of programs and materials for public education and enjoyment. Among these are:
Music Programs: In schools and in community settings, City Lore brings master performers to the public. One program—Dos Alas/Two Wings—offered music and dance performances and workshops from traditional artists from Cuba and Puerto Rico.
In association with Poets’ House, the organization sponsors the biennial poetry festival, The People’s Poetry Gathering. It takes place in downtown Manhattan and presents the world’s literary and folk poetry traditions read in the original languages and in English translation. The event pays special attention to the spoken word, the oral roots of poetry.
Place Matters, in association with the Municipal Art Society, identifies and protects places that tell the story and anchor the traditions of many of New York’s communities.
The People’s Hall of Fame is an annual awards celebration and party that honors grassroots contributions to New York’s cultural life. A historic New York subway token is presented to individuals and organizations that contribute to the city’s folk culture. A permanent exhibit featuring Hall of Fame winners is on view at the Museum of the City of New York, on Fifth Avenue between 103rd and 104th Streets.
City Lore also produces films and videos, such as How I Got Over (about a local mother-and-son gospel ministry) and Bomba: Dancing the Drum (about Puerto Rico’s leading family of traditional music and dance); and co-sponsors media programs produced by others, such as Coney Island and the New York series created by Ric Burns for PBS. The organization produces the American Talkers radio series with noted NPR producer Dave Isay; mounts traveling museum exhibits, such as Missing: Streetscape of a City in Mourning and produces Channel 75’s City Lore Hour, featuring films and videos on urban culture.
City Lore publishes the Culture Catalog, a mail-order catalogue containing over 120 multimedia resources in folklore, history and culture. Call City Lore to obtain a free copy.
To help New York City schoolchildren learn about and appreciate not only their own cultural heritage but also those of others, City Lore offers a number of programs in schools throughout the city. Individual music and dance ensembles featuring artists from many cultures are available to perform at assemblies. Folk and fine artists and educators come into the classroom to conduct workshops in the visual arts, music, dance and/or theater as a vehicle for students to explore other cultures or their own cultural backgrounds as a source for new artwork. In addition to learning artistic skills, students also explore research methods, including interviewing and ethnographic documentation and develop literacy, public speaking and organizational skills.
Cultural Arts Resources for Teachers and Students builds connections between local, regional and national cultural resources and K–12 classrooms. Offerings include staff-development workshops, technology seminars, artist residencies and instructional materials that help teachers integrate folk life and community resources across the curriculum.
The City Lore Resource Center is a multicultural resource center for teachers.