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What Being a Rock Star Teaches You About Practical Urbanism

The Magnetic Fields cellist Sam Davol applies insights about learning in public spaces, picked up on the road, to New York and beyond.
Sam Davol and his wife, Leslie, acting as roadies to set up a portable reading room for the Uni Project in Queens.
Sam Davol and his wife, Leslie, acting as roadies to set up a portable reading room for the Uni Project in Queens.Courtesy of the Uni Project

Sam Davol’s perspective on cities changes often. This is literal: as a cellist (and, er, circular saw player) with the whimsical indie pop band The Magnetic Fields, he’s currently on tour to support the latest album, 50 Song Memoir. It’s also figurative: as the co-founder of the Uni Project, a nonprofit that runs educational pop-up events, Davol often re-examines ideas of how to help make urban public space work for everyone. Here are a few things he’s picked up along the way:

Davol’s interest in placemaking was partly inspired by several decades of touring with The Magnetic Fields. “The things I have seen in Europe in particular over the years have deeply influenced the ways I wish New York could be,” he says.