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Plans Unveiled for Festival of Ideas

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This morning we headed over to The New Museum to learn more about the Festival of Ideas for the New City, an ambitious new event designed to “harness the power of the creative community.”  The festival was announced last year but, at a news conference held today,  organizers detailed elaborate plans for the three-day extravaganza.

The New Museum describes the event, to be held May 4-8, as “a major new collaborative initiative involving scores of Downtown organizations, from large universities to arts institutions and community groups, working together to affect change.”

Lisa Phillips, the museum’s director, acknowledged the neighborhood has changed drastically in the three years since her instirution’s new building opened at 235 Bowery. The time had come, she suggested, for NuMu to assume a more active role in the conversation about the Lower East Side’s (and the city’s) future.

The festival will consist of a a three-day series of workshops and lectures, a street fair on the Bowery and more than 100 independent projects dispersed throughout neighborhoods of downtown Manhattan. Cutting edge architect Rem Koolhaas will deliver the keynote address.

The fair will span the Bowery from Houston Street to Spring Street and feature more than 75 neighborhood organizations and businesses. Held on Saturday, May 7th (11am-7pm), it will include the “premiere (of) a new environmentally inspired tent module commissioned for the Festival, as well as outdoor living rooms and inflatable structures.”  There will be cooking demonstrations with urban farmers, rooftop gardening classes, oral history projects, bike tours and valets, and food (healthy/local/sustainable).

Among the independent projects being planned: a solar powered mobile art studio; artist-commissioned roll- down, metal storefront gates; projections of poems in endangered languages on Lower East Side buildings; a prototype of an urban campground; and a marathon event where architects will present their ideas about reconfiguring public space in a rapid fire format.

Organizing partners of the festival include: The Architectural League, the Bowery Poetry Club, Columbia University’s C-Lab, the Center for Architecture, The Cooper Union, the Drawing Center, New York University/Wagner School Public Policy, the PARC Foundation, the Storefront for Art and Architecture and the Swiss Institute.

There will be a lot more information on the festival’s new web site, which should go live sometime this evening. We’ll  have extensive coverage of this event (and the issues it encompasses) in the weeks to come.


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