9 Museums, 3 Hours, 0 Dollars: The 32nd Annual Museum Mile Festival

In the four years I’ve lived in New York, I have, apparently, seen and done very few of the things this city has to offer – working for CUarts has shown me that. Now that I spend my days putting arts and cultural events on the online calendar, I realize how many amazing (and often free) events there are going on every day, and how many of them I should’ve been going to all along. One such event occurred yesterday evening: the Annual Museum Mile Festival, when nine museums along Museum Mile (the stretch of Fifth Avenue that is home to museum after museum….after museum) open their doors and allow patrons to explore their exhibits for free. All of the museums that participate are part of the Passport to New York program – allowing current Columbia students to enter for free all the time – but the festival extends beyond the walls of the museums to the street. Fifth Avenue is closed from around 104th Street to 82nd Street, and is filled with live musical performances, sidewalk chalk art, free art giveaways, buskers, food, and lots and lots of people. And it is for this street party atmosphere that the festival is so worthwhile.

Because there are so many people trying to enjoy their free museum admission, it is tough to get into some of the museums, so I was only able to make it into a couple of them before the festival ended. Just walking the closed stretch of Fifth Avenue takes up time (as did the trip crosstown), and stopping to enjoy the street performers and art vendors takes up more. My first stop was the Museum of the City of New York, to which I’d never been before. MCNY has a few really interesting exhibits happening right now, including one exploring the mayoralty of former New York mayor John Lindsay, who held office from 1966-1973, and another that looks at the relationship between New York City and cars, in the past, present, and future. Unfortunately, yesterday was the last day of my favorite of the exhibits: Charles Addams’s New York, which traced the career of famed cartoonist and creator of the ghoulish Addams Family through his years creating covers for The New Yorker, and commenting on life in the big city.

After MCNY, I made my way over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hoping to catch the new exhibit on the roof: Doug + Mike Starn on the Roof: Big Bambú. Consisting of a huge, ever-evolving bamboo structure, Big Bambú allows visitors to walk amongst its base, giving a raw, foresty feel; visitors with special passes can also climb the structure, following the embedded footpaths that rise through the 40-foot sculpture. Hidden among the bamboo? A hammock! The roof also offers snacks and drinks, and young professionals seem to view it as a bar/hangout, which adds a nice social aspect to the overall museum-going experience. And just think, we Columbia students get this all for free every day of the year! The Met closed before I was able to take a walk through the new exhibit, American Woman: Fashioning a National History, which looks at how the history of American fashion has shaped the way American women are seen today. I’ll have to check it out next time I’m there; I’ll be heading back to the Met soon to climb Big Bambú (and maybe sneak a little lie down on that hammock…).

Big Bambú, up close and personal

By the time I left the Met, the festival was over, and since I was on the East Side anyway (which hardly ever happens), I thought I’d see what kinds of good eats I could find over there. I ended up on Second Ave. in the 80s, which bears a striking resemblance to the West Side in the 80s… There’re a lot of restaurants and bars over there, a lot of people (who knew?!), and a 7-11 on Third Ave., which pleased this former suburbanite more than it probably should have. Pina Colada Slurpee in hand (don’t judge me, please!) I made my way along the seemingly endless row of restaurants to a Thai place called Osha, which had been recommended for their soft-shell crab curry. The interior is cute and cozy: the front walls are exposed brick, and the back walls are papered in a large floral print, while the whole restaurant is littered with crystal chandeliers. The food was delicious and plentiful (though slightly pricey for a college student’s budget), and I left happy and full. As I made my way to the crosstown bus, I had a new and scary thought: maybe I should hang out on the East Side more often… **chills**

Students: since this year’s Museum Mile Festival is over, and there are a whole 364 days (give or take) until the next one, recreate it with your trusty CUID and the Passport to New York program! For the rest of the Columbia community, be sure to check the CUarts website for special admission and exhibition offers at participating museums.


Emily Mousseau GS’10

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One Response to 9 Museums, 3 Hours, 0 Dollars: The 32nd Annual Museum Mile Festival

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