6 at Astor Pl.; N, R at 8th St.-NYU
One of the most selective schools in the country is also among the most egalitarian. From its opening in 1859, this unique institution has offered a free education to anyone who could meet its entrance requirements—regardless of race, sex, or social station. Founder Peter Cooper, a successful industrialist, intended it that way; he was determined to offer the many New Yorkers who couldn't afford an education a shot at social and economic advancement. Fittingly, the entrance of the school's mighty brownstone Foundation Building was built deliberately to face the poor of the Bowery. Over the years, the Cooper Union has been a magnet for progressive organizations, ideas, and individuals—the NAACP and the Red Cross organized here, the same place where Susan B. Anthony's office was located. And many of the most important issues of the day have been argued in its landmark Great Hall, which has hosted the likes of Samuel Gompers and Mark Twain, not mention eight presidents beginning with Abraham Lincoln. Then there are the school's prestigious degree programs in engineering, fine arts and architecture faculties which have graduated notables like Thomas Edison, Felix Frankfurter, Daniel Libeskind, and boasts John Hejduk as a former Dean. Free public lectures, symposia, concerts and performances still take place in the Great Hall and there are myriad continuing education courses too. Peter Cooper was as singular as the school he founded. An extremely successful 19th-century industrialist, he pioneered the modern steel-making process, built the first American steam locomotive, conceived the first elevator, and even found time to create instant gelatin. Never even learning how to spell, Cooper achieved all this without the formal schooling that he strove to provide to others.Founder
The imposing statue of Peter Cooper in the square of his name was sculpted by Augustus Saint Gaudens.
A fascinating illustrated timeline of the school—and people associated with it—is located in the lobby of the Great Hall, at 7 East 7th Street at Third Avenue.
Several galleries in the Foundation Building showcase work by students, alumni, and professors. The galleries are located at 7 East 7th Street at Third Avenue, and the hours are: Mon.—Fri., 11 a.m. —6 p.m.; Sat-Sun, closed.
The Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography
The second floor of the Foundation Building, is open to the public by appointment (212-353-4207). It holds 25,000 examples of books, magazines, posters, typography and packaging from 1950 to 1980.
A recently instituted and student-organized public auction of student works typically takes place at the end of each calendar year. Fifty percent of each sale goes to the school, and the other half goes to the artist. And since a fair number of the students already show in commercial galleries, it's a charitable and affordable way to acquire some very good art.