A pop-up reading room and drawing cart is bringing arts, inspiration, and learning to public spaces across NYC for free. Learn more about The Uni!
The Uni, a portable, pop-up reading room, is traveling all over New York City. Serving as an institution-in-a-box program for public spaces, The Uni is dedicated to utilizing underused space to foster learning and build community.
The inspiration for The Uni came about after September 11, when Leslie and Sam Davol, and other local residents began the effort of rebuilding their lower Manhattan neighborhoods. They wanted programming for urban spaces that would reflect their values, and to eventually bring the institutions we all love – museums, libraries, and schools –to the streets and make them accessible. As parents, the Davols found that “raising kids in the city, you suddenly realize in a whole new way what surrounds you, what you have access to, in terms of good things to do that are inspiring.”
That’s the goal of The Uni: to create an environment for people to read and learn that is completely free, and that serves as an amenity to the city. There’s little structure to The Uni, but lots of engagement; all Uni outposts are self-guided and staffed with volunteers including librarians, educators, artists, and community members. The Uni can be found across the city’s plazas, parks, and other public spaces.
This past May, The Uni launched the DRAW cart – with funding from Burning Man, and high-quality materials donated by Blick – which brings art the street for New Yorkers of all ages to express themselves, and “put people in the act of learning,” says Ms. Davol. It’s all about “engaging people in simple activities, but have it be a rich experience for them.”
The Uni works in partnership with museums and institutions, including the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the new Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling, and MoMa, which sponsored a curated shelf, or mini-collection of art books that travel the city.