NYU to revive free museum access program

NYU plans to resume the Museum Gateway program as early as mid-September, making select New York City museums free for students once again.

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Sirui Wu

The New Museum of Contemporary Art is located at 235 Bowery. It is one of the participating organizations of NYU’s Museum Gateway program. (Staff Photo by Sirui Wu)

By Rose Ahn, Staff Writer

NYU’s Museum Gateway program will return in mid-September following a yearlong suspension. Students will once again have complimentary access to a selection of museums that previously included the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Historical Society. However, the university has not yet announced which of the previous partners will return as part of the renewed Museum Gateway.

The program was temporarily discontinued in fall 2020 due to pandemic-related closures and safety concerns regarding indoor crowds, university spokesperson John Beckman said.

Since then, the Facebook page for the program has been taken down and its page on the NYU website has been cleared of information, displaying a single sentence saying the program is “on pause at this time.”

Bethany Godsoe, the senior associate vice president of student affairs, said that the decision to relaunch the program was not made until September due to the relatively low number of students on campus during the spring 2021 and summer 2021 semesters. 

“The University’s memberships are aligned with its fiscal year, which begins every September,” Godsoe said. “We are happy to reinstate it this academic year. It will formally relaunch later this month and we will update the Museum Gateway website at that time.” 

Steinhardt sophomore Citlalli Alvarado, who is spending their first semester on campus, said they were looking forward to experiencing the city through its art and were disappointed by the discontinuation of Museum Gateway. 

“NYU ending the program was upsetting,” Alvarado said. “One of the things I looked forward to the most about going to school here is visiting the museums.”

Despite cultural venues having reopened as early as August 2020, NYU did not announce the resumption of the program, even during the spring 2021 semester — during which a considerable number of students returned to campus for hybrid classes. City guidelines reclassified visiting museums as a “low-risk” activity in April 2021.

Before the suspension of the program, students had free access to 13 museums across New York City through university-sponsored partnerships, as well as discounts on merchandise and tickets to museum events. Through the suspension, some museums continued to offer no-fee entry to NYU students, although this was not due to partnerships with the university. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example, gives residents of New York state and students from the tri-state area the option to choose how much they pay for a ticket.

The Museum of Modern Art also maintained free entry to those with NYU IDs despite the program’s suspension. However, in April 2021, NYU was abruptly removed from its listing of partnered institutions. Members of the university community must now pay the regular admission charge.

Some students were able to visit city museums during the past year despite the cancellation of Museum Gateway; others, however, found costs of admission to be a barrier. Steinhardt sophomore Maria Sanger, who studies studio art, highlighted the program’s relevance to her major.

“Sadly, as a student on a tight budget, I can’t afford to see all the work in all the museums I want,” Sanger said. “Bringing NYU’s Museum Gateway program back into action would profoundly benefit my education and give me a sense of security as I navigate my next three years as an NYU art student.”

Many students expressed their excitement about the program’s reinstatement. Laura Zhang, a Gallatin junior, said that museums are a critical part of the New York City experience.

“I love going to them for free on weekends with friends to see new exhibitions and explore the city in a new way,” Zhang said. “I think NYU students would get a lot out of getting access to them because the city really is a part of our campus.”

Mei Lamison contributed reporting.

Contact Rose Ahn at [email protected]