Steve Zeitlin


Nominated by Molly Garfinkel


Steve Zeitlin, Director of City Lore, received his Ph.D. in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.A. in literature from Bucknell University. He is the founding director of City Lore, an organization dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage. With a focus on New York, but with an increasing number of projects of national and international scope, City Lore works with grassroots cultures to ensure their living legacy in stories and histories, places and traditions. City Lore’s successful programs include Place Matters, the People’s Hall of Fame, and the POEMobile which projects poems on to buildings in tandem with live readings and performances. In 2007, he received the Benjamin Botkin Award from the American Folklore Society for lifetime achievement in public folklore. In 2010, he was awarded an Archie Green fellowship from the Library of Congress.


Steve Zeitlin has served as a regular commentator for a number of nationally syndicated public radio shows, and his commentaries have appeared on the Op Ed pages of The New York Times and Newsday. He also coproduced with NPR producer Dave Isay the storytelling series American Talkers for NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday and Morning Edition.


Prior to arriving in New York, Steve Zeitlin served for eight years as a folklorist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and has taught at George Washington, American University, NYU, and Cooper Union. He is coauthor of a number of award winning books on America’s folk culture including A Celebration of American Family Folklore (Pantheon Books, 1982); The Grand Generation: Memory Mastery and Legacy (U. of Washington Press, l987); City Play (Rutgers University Press, l990); Because God Loves Stories: An Anthology of Jewish Storytelling (Simon & Schuster, 1997); Giving a Voice to Sorrow: Personal Responses to Death and Mourning (Penguin-Putnam, 2001), and Hidden New York: A Guide to Places that Matter (Rutgers U. Press, October, 2006). He is the author of a volume of poetry, I Hear American Singing in the Rain (First Street Press, 2002), and his poems have appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine, Literary Review East and other publications. His book, The Poetry of Everyday Life, is forthcoming from Cornell University Press.


He has also co-produced a number of award winning film documentaries Free Show Tonight on the traveling medicine shows of the l920s and 30s; From Mambo to Hip Hop, broadcast on public television in the fall of 2006, and winner of an Alma Award for Best Documentary; Deaf Jam, about American Sign Language poets, recently broadcast by Independent Lens on PBS; and Let’s Get the Rhythm: the Life and Times of Miss Mary Mack, which premiered at the Margaret Mead Film Festival in 2014.