CUP makes educational projects about places and how they change. Our mission is to use design and art to improve public participation in shaping the places where we all live.
Our projects bring together art and design professionals - artists, graphic designers, architects, urban planners - with community-based advocates and researchers - organizers, government officials, academics, service-providers, policymakers. These partners work with CUP staff to break down the complex systems that shape urban life and to create teaching tools that make those systems understandable to more people.
Our work grows from a belief that the power of imagination is central to the practice of democracy, and that the work of governing must engage the dreams and visions of citizens. CUP believes in the legibility of the world around us. What can we learn by investigation? By learning how to investigate, we train ourselves to change what we see.
In 1997, CUP published its first project, a booklet entitled “A How-To Guidebook for Urban Objects.” At that time, CUP was an informal group of people with diverse backgrounds but a shared interest in making interpretive projects about the city. Since then, CUP has grown as a vehicle for collaboration. CUP received its 501(c)(3) designation in 2002 and hired its first fulltime staff members in 2005.
CUP has worked with nonprofits such as Sustainable South Bronx, Place In History, the Municipal Arts Society, the Fifth Avenue Committee, REPOHistory, Temporary Services, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Global Kids, the Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), the Public Housing Residents of the Lower East Side (PHROLES), the Legal Aid Society, the Community Service Society of New York, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, the Fiscal Policy Institute, the Met Council on Housing, the New York City Public Housing Residents Alliance.
CUP has worked with over 1,300 students since 2001, working in city-run Tier II shelters, City-As-School, the Academy of Urban Planning, Math and Science Upward Bound, the Heritage School, Monroe High School, Parsons the New School School of Design, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Wyckoff Houses, and PS 164.
CUP has organized or participated in exhibitions at Storefront for Art and Architecture, Anthology Film Archives, Apex Art Curatorial Program, City University of New York Graduate Center, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, and PS 1 Contemporary Art Center in New York; Mess Hall and the Chicago Architecture Foundation in Chicago; and Kunsthalle Exnergasse in Vienna.