Grassroots Partnering to Preserve Cultural Heritage
City Lore documents, presents, and advocates for grassroots cultures in New York City through four programs: urban folklore and history, cultural preservation, arts education, and grassroots poetry traditions. In a city whose residents represent nationalities from around the globe, City Lore stands at the epicenter of the nation’s rapidly changing cultural demographics. In addition to outdoor exhibits, publications, online resources, and educational services, City Lore’s programs include open-air multilingual poetry performances and collaborations with other New York organizations including Urban Word, a LINC partner.
With support from LINC, City Lore invested in stabilizing their operations and developing each of its program areas, producing more innovative work and reaching larger audiences. With the help of major investments from LINC and The Rockefeller Foundation’s Cultural Innovation Fund, City Lore created the POEMobile, an innovative open-air poetry projection system and mobile stage that projects poems in many languages on walls and buildings across the city in tandem with live readings. Conceived as an “open source library” of poetic diversity and a traveling cinema of words, the POEMobile is both an exciting live experience and part of a lasting effort to inscribe and disseminate the works of diverse and often little-known communities of poets and musicians. In each location, a local “poetry ambassador” is cultivated to co-curate the program, fostering organic partnerships with the city’s ethnic and new immigrant communities.
“Partnering with LINC gave City Lore the stability it needed to do its most creative, cutting-edge work,” said Executive Director Steve Zeitlin. That cutting-edge work is seen in the full integration of cultural heritage and community building. As Dr. William Westerman, ethnographer for LINC’s Artography program, wrote, “It’s hard to understand what City Lore does in terms of art-making without first understanding how folklorists think of the concept of art. It is as if in Western society what is seen as the arts is equivalent to the visible light in the spectrum, whereas folklorists see the art across the whole spectrum, from ultraviolet to infrared. That full range of creative expression is what concerns the mission of City Lore, and it includes history and memory, language and religion, food and gardens, lace and place.”