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StreetFest at the Festival of Ideas for the New City

This weekend I walked up and down the Bowery and around Sara D. Roosevelt Park in NYC to see what ideas were on offer at the street festival called “StreetFest,” organized by the New Museum in conjunction with its Festival of Ideas for the New City.

I knew I wanted to see this street festival back in December when I read the call for entries from Storefront for Art and Architecture. Entrants were asked to “re-envision the performativity—the material, social and educational possibilities—of temporary outdoor structures” with modular designs. That made me think of the Uni.

I also went looking for potential program partners and programming ideas.

It was a wonderful event, with lots of ideas to sink your teeth into. Design of the festival infrastructure itself turned out to be a very small part of things. Instead, what stood out was the way in which the festival format offered a great platform for diverse organizations to engage the public with the content of their work. It also clearly inspired some groups to try new engagement strategies. I sat down to get a short lecture on the “Taste of Bubbles” from an expert as part of Cabinet Magazine’s “University-on-the-Bowery.” The Van Alen Institute’s outdoor “reading room” set-up reminded me of our effort to provide an outdoor reading room at the Main Street and August Moon festivals in Boston’s Chinatown in connection with our Storefront Library project.

 

 

I was struck by the number of custom-made conveyances and kits which enabled programs to “pop-up” in all manner of spaces and reach outside the walls of institutions. Christopher Robbins plans to take his new mobile video booth to the soccer fields of Corona Park in Flushing, Queens, this summer in connection with his Ghana Think Tank project.

The prompt on this blackboard stanchion seemed to sum up the approach taken by most of the groups involved in StreetFest: these are grass-roots organizations trying to connect with the “man-on-the-street.”