[Another post from Sam on tour—explanation here.]

Ten years ago, residents of lower Manhattan were given a chance to tell planners what should be rebuilt in our neighborhood after Sept. 11, 2001. I made one suggestion: visit Chicago and the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Old Town is probably my favorite institution in the world. It is a compelling place to perform music, and it is a role model for creating meaningful, community-oriented programming in an urban setting. More than a music school, it is an institution rooted in a neighborhood, serving an entire city, and known the world over. When we sat down to begin work on the Uni, the first thing I wrote on the whiteboard was “Old Town.”

Let me count some of the ways:

The "old" building on one side of the street.

The new building on the other.

Mayor Emanuel could honor Old Town by installing a mid block crosswalk.

Inside: classes, performing and rehearsal space, a music store, cafe, resource center. Placemaking.

Inside the new building, fancier...

...but the same hand-written, home-grown details.

Cut to another neighborhood, just a few stops away, Old Town School maintains a storefront. (It actually pre-dates the new "uptown" buildings.)

Jerry watches over the flyers at the front desk.

Strollers parked in front of images of folk heroes. Passing the torch.

We're getting a "new" name... Street Lab.

The Uni Project is the work of Street Lab, a nonprofit launched in 2006 in Boston, where we created community-oriented programs for public space. In 2011, we migrated Street Lab to New York City and launched the Uni Project. The Uni began as a single, portable reading room and has since grown into a city-wide initiative offering more than 700 days of pop-up programming in 150+ public spaces across the city. In 2019, we are re-introducing our original name Street Lab to tie all this work together going forward, with much more to come.

For now, details about our programs are available here on the Uni Project web site. Soon, that content will move to www.streetlab.org. Thanks for sticking with us!