Every tourist knows about The Met and MoMA, but New York is filled with many museums and exhibition venues off the beaten trail. In this series, we explore some of the city’s less well known cultural spaces and meet the people who organize them.
Within the United Nations Headquarters exists not only an incredible collection of permanent art and gifts given to the UN by member states, but also space in the Visitors’ Lobby which features changing exhibitions. These shows are dedicated to spreading awareness of key topics that the UN’s work addresses such as climate change, violence against women, and human rights. Additionally, there is an online gallery featuring information about current and past exhibitions.
We visited with Melissa Budinic whose office is responsible for exhibits open to the public at the UN.
New Project: Where are the UN exhibits located and how can one visit them?
Melissa Budinic: There are three “galleries” managed by the UN Exhibits office. Located in the United Nations Headquarters Visitors’ Lobby (1st Avenue at 46th Street in New York City), two exhibit spaces are located straight ahead of the entrance toward the left and the third space is located along the curved wall leading to the tour check in area.
Admission to the galleries and public areas is free with government-issued photo ID and open Monday-Friday 9:30 am – 4:30 pm, Saturday-Sunday: 10:00 am – 4:30 pm (closed weekends January and February).
NP: Who organizes the shows and what are they about?
MB: Exhibitions are either developed internally at the UN or by outside entities/individuals. The exhibition proposals are reviewed by the Exhibits Committee. Shows must be educational, offer information on key issues relating to the work of the UN, and be endorsed by a relevant office within the UN (for example, an exhibition on child labor might be sponsored by UNICEF). Past exhibitions have revolved around topics such as the international campaign to ban land mines, ecological and economic importance of healthy oceans, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
NP: How often do they change?
MB: Exhibitions are usually on view for one to two months. We may have one, two, or three shows on view simultaneously, in addition to an ongoing exhibition about the history and renovation of the UN Headquarters in another space. We present approximately 15-20 exhibitions each year in the Visitors’ Lobby, many of which are also included on the website for those who can’t make it to New York to see them in person.
NP: Do you have any favorites?
MB: Not really. Each exhibit is about a different topic, so every time I get to learn something different about the kinds of work that the UN does.
NP: Can anyone submit at proposal for a show?
MB: Certainly, as long as they follow the guidelines. The UN doesn’t present art and solo exhibitions. The shows must cover several countries. For details, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
NP: What’s up next?
MB: In January, we’ll be presenting an exhibition called State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda. The exhibition is organized by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and coincides with International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27. The exhibition is on view starting January 12, 2017.
NP: Thank you for sharing your time!
To learn about more interesting things to see and do while visiting the United Nations (like eating in the delegates dining room, taking a guided tour, and getting a special UN passport stamp), check out the UN website.
The exhibition Palestinian Embroidery: Threads of Continuity, Identity and Empowerment included stunning examples of elaborate embroidery by Palestinian women from the 19th through 21st centuries, photography, dolls, and dresses by contemporary Palestinian fashion designers.
Exhibition image detail
Contemporary fashion faces a row of portraits of the UN Secretaries General in rug form donated by member state Iran.
Installation view of Millennium Villages Project (MVP) – A photographic essay on sustainable development. This exhibition featured photographs of four projects implemented by the Millennium Villages in Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, and Senegal. Led by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, the Millennium Villages Project contributed to eliminating extreme poverty in ten African countries over ten years (2005-2015).
A gift by member state Thailand to the United Nations, one of many remarkable pieces of the collection on view at the UN Headquarters.
New Project gives back to the community and this child-friendly project was just one example. Putting our CNC machine to good use, we created these snap-together birdhouses for a class project to help kids learn sequencing tasks. New Project designed the birdhouses using Rhino and cut the pieces out of a single sheet of MDO plywood using our CNC machine. We then bagged together easy-to-assemble kits for the 1st grade class at PS-10 in Brooklyn. New Project Co-Founder and CEO Dennis Potami visited the class to explain and lead the project. Each child assembled the pieces without nails or glue and then took home the birdhouse they proudly made in class. We really enjoyed developing this fun project that hopefully inspired a new generation of thinkers and builders!
Tim designs the birdhouse in Rhino
The finished product and the happy builders
Modular Custom Furniture for Cornell Tech- “It’s Not Our Space, It’s Theirs”
New York City is no stranger to arts-specific educational institutions. Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs are home to Parsons the New School of Design, the School of Visual Arts, Pratt Institute, and the New York Film Academy, among many others. Each offering their own set of discipline-focused curricula, these schools have produced countless alumni who have gone on to become leaders in their respective fields. With the recent shift toward the technological and with start-ups securing their place as a permanent fixture of our future, it was only a matter of time before New York’s already impressive educational offerings included a technology-based school which would focus on preparing its students with the information technology skills they’ll need to be at the forefront of the rapidly-changing technological landscape. Enter, Cornell Tech.
Seen as a way to increase entrepreneurship and job growth in the city’s technology sector, Mayor Bloomberg announced the plans for Cornell Tech’s 12 acre Roosevelt Island campus back in 2011. The first phase of construction is slated to be completed in 2017, with the remainder of the campus scheduled to be finished in 2037. In the interim, in order to establish a foot-hold in the city, Cornell Tech has begun offering their graduate program out of a temporary home inside Google’s Chelsea building. The school was looking for a space that is open and flexible, where students, faculty, and guests could interact and collaborate in unique and personalized ways. Enter, New Project.
New Project was contracted by Rockwell Group, a local architectural design firm, to fabricate large mobile modules that the students can move, rearrange, and manipulate to create unique spaces for classes, lectures, study, and lounging. Rockwell Group accurately defines the resulting creation as a “learning toolkit of working hubs and surfaces that encourage collaboration”.
Using Rockwell Group’s original designs, New Project fabricated and installed four freestanding, modular structures in the school’s “Studio” in 2013. Each module was equipped with white boards and cork boards, as well as access to dropped electrical power sources so that students could easily attach computers, projectors, monitors, etc. Various seating and large work surfaces make up the remainder of the space, which could be transformed and moved to accommodate a number of various needs including events, lectures and presentations. Additionally, we built a custom reception desk in the shape of Roosevelt Island, the university’s future home, using layered furniture-grade birch plywood.This desk was later sold to a retailer who said that they wanted to use this as a retail display.
A year and a half later, we’ve returned to the campus and spoke with Cornell Tech staff members Tamika Morales, Administrative Assistant, and Aaron Holiday, Managing Entrepreneurial Officer, to see how the units have been received and manipulated by the students. Here’s what they had to say:NP: In your experience here at Cornell Tech, how have you noticed the students using the furniture in “The Studio”? TM: The students have become very comfortable with the furniture. They particularly enjoy playing in the garden, and I hazard it’s because we bought some of the best wood picnic tables. They use the large piece, dubbed “Mamma Jamma”, the most. I’ve seen it used as a large desk and study area, a stage, and many other things. All of the furniture is used on a daily basis in a number of different ways. The furniture has actually become a very important part of the student’s “Hack Days”. NP: Can you elaborate on what a Hack Day is and how the furniture is used in the process? AH: Hack Days occur three times a semester. The objective of this 24 hour event is for the students to make accelerated progress on the projects they are building on campus, particularly technology and software. It creates a collaborative culture for people who are actively building things. The furniture is an integral part of hack day. We put the studio in a way that its setup is completely unusable; tables are flipped upside down, things are all over the place. Tamika and the team will pile all of the furniture up in the middle of the room with the white boards all around the space. Then, at the count of three, students will race and go after everything and grab what they want. It’s actually quite incredible to watch this completely disheveled space transform into a useable work area in less than a minute. The students can create and convert it into their own space, They take ownership not only of the project they are working on but the space they’re working in. This can only happen because the furniture is modular and on wheels. NP: That sounds exciting! Reminds me of the cornucopia scene in The Hunger Games, without all the violence of course. When we built the furniture we were really hoping that the students would take ownership of the space and utilize it according to their needs. It’s nice to see they are. Are there any other events that come to mind that the furniture was manipulated and used for? TM: Yes! We use it all the time for seminars, announcements, panel discussions, and most often for our weekly guest speakers. We call it Conversations In The Studio, where luminaries in the tech community are invited to come and speak to about entrepreneurship, engineering, art and other topics. The conversations are moderated by the students. We can pull out the stage, and set up chairs, but the rest of the furniture is pushed to the sides to accommodate the crowds. Sometimes the Google people come down to hear the speaker. NP: Have the students or speakers used the furniture in any way that has surprised you? TM: I saw someone actually doing pull-ups one day on Mamma Jamma. I also once saw someone turn one one of the pieces into their own space, complete with a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the outside, they found the remotes that are hidden inside the deskâ€¦ they really take ownership. The magnetic Cornell Tech sign gets moved everywhere and is played with to take pictures and whatnot. It’s always in a new spot. NP: There is a lot going on here everyday, and it’s not a huge space. It almost seems like this kind of set up was necessary. If the furniture was static and heavy, you would have been very limited as to what you could do with the space. TM: Yes, I think the students would have been very frustrated. It wouldn’t have the same energy. This isn’t our space, it’s their space.
We have to say, we knew the furniture would be utilized, but we were pleasantly surprised how they have incorporated the furniture into their daily lives on campus. It is interesting that physical furniture is so heavily manipulated and depended on in such a technological setting. We are so proud of what we built, and think Rockwell Group really hit the nail on the head with the design.
We leave you with some visuals from the planning, fabrication, and installation phases of the project. Enjoy!
Also, check out Rockwell Group’s Vimeo Page for a time-lapse video of Cornell’s Studio in use.