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The special "Worms" tents used for the New Museum’s StreetFest street fair, May 7-8, 2011


May 6, 2011

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What happens when a museum organizes a street fair? You get booths devoted to handmade sodas, honeybees in the city and the bicycle as paintbrush, in an event underwritten by Goldman Sachs, Audi, American Express and the Rockefeller Foundation.

One highlight of the New Museum’s much ballyhooed Festival of Ideas for the New City, May 4-8, 2011, is the weekend-long StreetFest, a kind of street fair that promises to forgo the usual stands selling sausage sandwiches and tube socks in favor of bringing together more than 100 "local grassroots organizations and small businesses." Housed under a new kind of tent called the “Worms,” a conglomeration of colorful, slinky-like structures that come in 20-foot sections, the StreetFest is planned to take over the Bowery in front and Sara Roosevelt Park on Chrystie Street in the back of the museum block. Attractions include a mobile bakery, outdoor dance performances, an Etsy "street team" and even a garden on the Bowery Mission roof -- all enumerated in a brochure that was printed and distributed with last week’s New York magazine.

In addition to the on-the-ground displays, the "idea fest" is buoyed by utopian hot air from a range of architects and city planners, not least of them being Rem Koolhaas, the architect who gave the event’s keynote address. Koolhaas was on hand to inaugurate the New Museum’s new gallery, a former restaurant supply shop next door to its existing facility, with “Cronocaos,” a show of OMA architectural projects that debuted at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale. Looking something like a high school science fair, the show includes captions scribbled on scotch tape and arrows on the floor to guide foot traffic.

Also on tap is a three-day conference at Cooper Union, NYU and other academic venues, on topics such as “The Reconfigured City,” “The Sustainable City” and “The Heterogenous City.” You can get all this for $10. On Saturday evening, a large number of art shows and events take place in the neighborhood, including a midnight performance by Rashaad Newsome at St. Peter's Basilica at Mott and Prince Streets in SoHo, and light projections on the New Museum itself as well as on surrounding walls by Rita Ackermann, Chakaia Booker, Jon Kessler, Marilyn Minter and others. Also on view, of course, are the newly painted steel storefront gates along the Bowery, by artists including Mary Heilmann, Jacqueline Humphries, Glenn Ligon, Barry McGee, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Lawrence Weiner.

Click here for a full schedule of events.

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