Founded in 1986, City Lore’s mission is to foster New York City – and America’s – living cultural heritage through education and public programs. We document, present, and advocate for New York City’s grassroots cultures to ensure their living legacy in stories and histories, places and traditions. We work in four cultural domains: urban folklore and history; preservation; arts education; and grassroots poetry traditions. In each of these realms, we see ourselves as furthering cultural equity and modeling a better world with projects as dynamic and diverse as New York City itself.
At City Lore, we abide by the definition set forth by Don Adams and Arlene Goldbard for cultural democracy, a society which allows many cultural traditions to co-exist on an equal footing and encourages active participation in cultural life, not just passive consumption of cultural products. We seek to foster webs of cultural meaning, linking past and present through tradition and creativity, encouraging the process whereby human beings, as sociolinguist Dell Hymes suggests, “shape deeply felt values into meaningful forms.”
Just as New York City is one of the so‑called “high culture” (e.g., opera, classical ballet) centers of the world, so is it one of the richest and most diverse centers of traditional culture. New York City may well boast the most diverse aggregate of ethnic groups in the world. We work with a wide range of communities along with grassroots, folk and traditional artists. Yet, we do not see ourselves simply as presenters or documenters of these artists and communities, but as their collaborators. They are not our “informants” but our partners. We work collaboratively with marginalized, folk, ethnic and community artists to accomplish shared ends. By embracing different aesthetics for the creation of art, we seek to democratize the arts, and foster a wider range of communities, artists, and forms of artistic expression.