Chicago is in the Uni

[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.

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The Uni Project is the operating name (DBA) of Street Lab, a 501c3 nonprofit.