There’s a lot to do in New York, and most of it costs an absurd amount of money. But I’m here to tell you that there are free venues where you can have fun and get off the beaten track at the same time. All you need is a metrocard and a sense of adventure. Here are two places that exemplify the way that art and culture in New York is rooted in its neighborhood shops and local artists.
Far from the madding crowd of Manhattan is the Brooklyn Museum, home to an eclectic collection of American art and great European works. It feels less organized and more personal than bigger Manhattan museums such as the Met or MoMA. There is a “suggested” eight-dollar entry fee for students, but you can also wander in for free.
Make sure to check out the Brooklyn museum’s year-long “Raw/Cooked” series of art pieces featuring emerging Brooklyn artists. I particularly loved Bedford-based artist Heather Hart’s exhibition: A large-scale structure titled The Eastern Oracle: We Will Tear the Roof Off the Mother. The artwork resembles the roof of a house and its interior contains a recreation of a Buddhist shrine. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the installation; climbing on top of the house and walking inside to press gold leaf onto the wall of the shrine.
Also drop by the Keith Haring exhibit, a temporary showcase of the young artist’s works. The exhibit includes a thirty-foot wall painting, newspaper collages, and “Painting Myself into a Corner,” a video of Haring doing just that, while another man reads a nonsensical story about circles.
Another free adventure is Steinway Hall on 57th street in Manhattan. Ostensibly, visitors come in to purchase a Steinway piano, but many also come simply to admire the rotunda ceiling designed by the famed Warren and Wetmore architecture firm. Whitney Warren (1864-1943) and Charles D. Wetmore (1866-1941) were responsible for many of New York’s grandest and most prolific buildings in the three decades leading to the Great Depression. Their body of work includes the Grand Central Terminal, mansions for Manhattan’s elite, and the New York Yacht Club.
The best part of Steinway Hall, for me personally, are the many rooms of Steinway, Essex, and Boston pianos––perfectly tuned and brand new––that are available to be tested out by awe-struck music lovers.