Gain free admission to these NYC cultural institutions on Inauguration Day

January 19, 2017

A couple weeks ago, a long list of artists, including Cindy Sherman and Richard Serra, started a petition calling for cultural institutions to close on Inauguration Day as “an act of noncompliance” against “Trumpism.” That list has grown to 740 artists and critics, and many galleries, museums, and academic spaces will shut their doors tomorrow according to the J20 Art Strike. But there’s also a long list of museums and cultural institutions across the city that have decided to take an alternate approach and remain open, offering free admission and/or special programming. From a marathon reading of Langston Hughes’s”Let America Be America Again” at the Brooklyn Museum to special gallery tours at the Rubin, these are all the (free!) ways to use the arts as an outlet on Inauguration Day.

Whitney Museum of American Art
Pay-what-you-wish, 10:30am-10pm

The Whitney is waiving its $22 admission fee in order to “affirm [their] commitment to open dialogue, civic engagement, and the diversity of American art and culture.” They’re also offering special programming including: hour-long tours of a portrait collection that will “explore immigration, ethnicity, race, and the complexity of American identity;” a four-hour protest/lecture organized by Occupy Museums during which “artists, writers, and activists will affirm their values to resist and reimagine the current political climate;” and open discussions using art as a way to explore the issues at hand.

Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)
Free admission, 11am-6pm

The free admission at MOCA will let guests see the current and timely exhibit “With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America,” which explores the “diverse layers of the Chinese American experience, while examining America’s journey as a nation of immigrants.” They’ve also installed a “response wall” where visitors can share their thoughts on the future of the country.

New Museum
Pay-what-you-wish, 11am-6pm

The New Museum has extended their pay-what-you-wish time from Thursday night to all day Friday “in recognition of art’s power to transform communities and to foster tolerance and empathy.” Take advantage to see all the current exhibits.

Rubin Museum of Art
Free admission, 6-10pm

Every week, the Rubin hosts their free K2 Friday Nights, with a DJ, special programs, and happy hour. Tomorrow, they’ll offer a special gallery tours called “Face Your Fears!” for guests to “see how the themes of powerful protection, intense vigilance, and overcoming ego have been expressed in art from the Himalayan region.” And if you don’t mind dropping $35, they’re hosting a meditation and yoga class accompanied by live electronic music from 7-8:30pm.

Museum of Arts & Design (MAD)
Pay-what-you-wish, 10am-9pm

According to MAD, the museum currently has “an unprecedented number of solo exhibitions on view by women artists across generations,” and therefore, “in response to the call for the #J20 Art Strike, we have opted to remain open so these powerful works can be viewed by the public at a time when the topics present—from climate change to women’s issues—are very much at the forefront.”

New-York Historical Society
Pay-what-you-wish, 6-8pm

The Historical Society is typically free on Friday evenings, but thanks to their new exhibit “The Presidency Project,” tomorrow takes on more meaning. Included in the “museum-wide educational initiative to explore the role, powers, and responsibilities of the presidency” is the Subway Therapy installation, a display of artifacts from George Washington’s 1789 first American inauguration, and “We the People,” Nari Ward’s monumental new work of art that spells out these three words using shoelaces.

The DiMenna Center for Classical Music
Free event, 7pm-12am

Join musicians from across the NYC experimental and jazz community “for a marathon fundraiser concert/dance party.” Though the event is free, attendees are asked to make donations to “institutions that uphold America’s democracy and diversity,” which include the ACLU, LAMBDA Legal, Planned Parenthood, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Poets House
Free event, 5-7pm

Reserve a spot at the Poets House for DAY ONE: A Poetry Reading and Open Mic. The event will “feature socially-engaged poets and then open the mic to folks who need to be heard” as a way to “collectively process and map out the next four years.”

United Palace
Free event, 11am-5pm

The historic United Palace is holding an all-day “citizen-wide gathering designed to unite, uplift and inspire.” Titled “Inaugurate Love: Dreaming Our Nation United,” the day’s programming includes group meditation, indigenous ceremonies, sound healing, drumming circles, spoken word, short-play readings, poetry, dance, live art, vocalists and instrumentalists, and performances by Ellen Burstyn, Gary Jules and Leah Siegel.

Brooklyn Museum
Free event, 11am-6pm

For seven hours, the Brooklyn Museum will hold a marathon reading of Langston Hughes’s 1935 poem “Let America Be America Again,” hoping the museum becomes “a source of inspiration, reflection, community building, wonder, and magic.”

Queens Museum
Free event, 12-2pm

Though the museum will close as part of the J20 strike, they will open for two hours for a workshop where those attending Saturday’s marches can make signs, buttons, and t-shirts. The materials are all free, and specific workshops include silkscreen and risograph printing.

Bronx Museum
Free event, 6-8pm

The Bronx Museum is hosting an art-making happy hour with local artist Dennis Redmoon Darkeem. He’ll lead participants in painting and collaging based on his project New Understandings, which is inspired by reflections on the new year. Admission is free, but beer and wine is $5.


guggenheim nyc

Several NYC museums have decided to remain open as normal (meaning no free admission). These include:

  • MoMA and MoMA PS1
  • The Jewish Museum
  • The Guggenheim: “We believe that museums can and should be a place of reflection and inspiration for all people, and we hope that our visitors will find welcome in a place where they can feel included in a great common cause—art and its transformative effects,” said the museum in a statement.
  • The Studio Museum in Harlem: “We believe passionately that the radical voices of artists are essential to our democracy. We invite our friends, neighbors and families, whose bright spirits have the power to illuminate our future, to join us on January 20 and every day.”

For those locales that have chosen to close, the J20 Art Strike wants to be clear that it’s not “a strike against art, theater or any other cultural form,” but rather “an invitation to motivate these activities anew, to reimagine these spaces as places where resistant forms of thinking, seeing, feeling and acting can be produced.”

Lead image: Subway Therapy at the New-York Historical Society via laurenkgray/Instagram; Art at the Rubin via Rubin Museum/Instagram

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