By  on April 4, 2006

NEW YORK — Target, which has been unabashed about pitching design to the masses, now has a more stately bully pulpit at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.

At the end of the month, the Target National Design Education Center, a 100-seat lecture room, design studio and resource library, will open on the ground floor of the Manhattan museum, a manse originally built for Andrew Carnegie in a neighborhood now known as Carnegie Hill. As part of its mission to get more people elbows-deep in the design process, the Cooper-Hewitt plans to use the new facility for talks, master classes and workshops. The center will be equipped with data capture technology so that programs can be documented or transmitted via the Web.

"The Target National Design Education Center will greatly increase our programming capabilities, enabling us to reach a broader audience," said Cooper-Hewitt director Paul Warwick Thompson.

He said he had no reservations about having a corporate sponsor opposed to an individual. "Target is so committed to design education we couldn't think of a better partner. It is such a wonderful, philanthropic institution," said Goldberger, noting Target supports such design hubs as the Minneapolis Design Institute and the Museum of Modern Art.

That an 1,412-unit chain specializing in low-cost commodities created by big-name designers wound up with a Smithsonian outpost in this Upper East Side neighborhood is not as unlikely as it might seem. The company has been tightening its ties to the design community for several years, and its sleek advertising is widespread. The Minneapolis company is the lead sponsor for of the 2006 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards, which were created in 2000 as one of the White House Millennium Council's projects. Last year, the retailer was one of the sponsors of Cooper-Hewitt's "Extreme Textiles" exhibition; Michael Francis, Target's executive vice president of marketing, serves on Cooper-Hewitt's board, and Target took home one of the awards at the 2003 gala.

High school students will be among the first to check out the new space at the April 27 grand opening. The museum has invited 90 teenagers from New York-area schools and 10 students who will be flown in from other parts of the country to leave their mark on the Graffiti Design Mural, speak their mind in the "Design Is..." Truth Booth and look into career opportunities with designers from MTV and Gensler, an architectural and design firm with offices in 28 cities.High school students will get an earful from Marc Ecko, who is the designer behind the Ecko Unltd. apparel brand, Complex magazine and the recently launched "Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure" video game. Afterward, Cynthia Rowley and Liz Lange, two of Target's marquee names, will be on hand for a cocktail party for design influencers, students' parents and museum patrons.

A week of activities will surround this year's Oct. 18 National Design Awards gala. This year's jury includes Rhode Island School of Design president Roger Mandle, designer Yves Béhar, the New York Times' Stefano Tonchi, among others.

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