The role of public libraries across North America has become rather mercurial over the past few years – while many have been challenged by government cost-cutting, others have thrived by offering new lending services ranging from musical instruments to toolkits. A proposal, unveiled this week by the Washington-based Urban Libraries Council, hopes to transform many public libraries into mini business hubs too. It suggests providing services to would-be entrepreneurs as well as space for independent-business owners to forge new commercial ideas. Twelve library networks have so far signed up to the scheme, with programmes including an “entrepreneur in residence” at Toronto Public Library and start-up support for immigrants and refugees in Kansas City who want to set up their first business.
In recent years Paris has led the way among European cities looking to improve the quality of their streets for pedestrians. Following a 2016 ban on all cars made before 1997 and a pedestrianisation initiative along the banks of the Seine, implemented last year, Paris has become, arguably, one of the least auto-centric cities in Europe. The city’s next move may be its boldest yet. Mayor Anne Hidalgo is floating the idea of making all public transport in the city free for all 12 million residents of the greater Paris region. This would cost a pretty penny: about €6bn annually. The ambitious, some would say audacious, proposal is far from a done deal; it comes at a time when Hidalgo’s administration is facing mounting resistance to its pro-public-transport agenda and the costs it would entail.
London’s newly refreshed Royal Academy of Arts in Burlington House opens to the public today, coinciding with its 250th anniversary. The expansion and subtle touch-ups, led by UK architect David Chipperfield, include a lecture theatre, architecture studio and new gallery spaces, opening with an exhibition by visual artist Tacita Dean. The real eye-opener is the concrete Weston Bridge that connects the original RA building Burlington House to the expansion in Burlington Gardens; for the first time visitors will be able to walk through the schools where postgraduate students are at work. While the RA hosts some of the capital’s finest art shows, including the famous summer exhibition opening next month, this latest renovation is a timely reminder that, at its core, it remains an art school – and the oldest in the UK at that.
Philanthropist Sonja Bata may have died in February but her gift to her adopted city of Toronto lives on: the Bata Shoe Museum, home to the world’s best collection of footwear. “The reason I’m here is the legend of Mrs Bata,” said famed shoe designer Manolo Blahnik to an excited crowd in the museum this week. Swiss-born Bata – wife of footwear heir Thomas Bata – began amassing her collection in the 1940s before it was given a more permanent home when the museum opened in 1995. Its collection of 13,000 shoes spanning 4,500 years made it a natural choice be the final stop for Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes, a retrospective of one of fashion’s most illustrious figures. “I’ve been to many, many museums and this is incomparable,” he said. “I’m very proud to be in this temple of beauty.”
Art is about more than just a nice painting – it can be a tool for understanding the many brushstrokes of life. So says philosopher Alain de Botton, who co-curated an exhibition in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam called 'Art is Therapy'. Monocle's Robert Bound met De Botton in the Rijksmuseum to learn more about his artistic treatment.
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