Did you know that NYU has a dedicated art museum? It’s true, and in early 2024, NYU’s Grey Art Gallery reopened as the Grey Art Museum at 18 Cooper Square in lower Manhattan. With more space and improved accessibility, the Grey is ready to welcome undergraduates to visit the new space and invites them to get involved in everything the museum has to offer. Swing by for an art break five days a week (NYU students always get free admission!) or explore work and internship opportunities. At NYU’s only fine arts museum–laboratory, there’s always something to do.

The exterior of the newly opened NYU Grey Art Museum in New York City.

A Very Brief History of the Grey

The year was 1974, and NYU received a call from art collector Abby Weed Grey. She was an avid fan of a television series that broadcast college-level courses. After viewing an NYU professor present on Persian history, she made NYU an offer. She wanted to donate her vast collection of contemporary works by non-Western artists to the University. Her collection became the Grey. “Many years ago I was asked, ‘Why does NYU need a museum? There are so many museums in New York,’” recalls Lynn Gumpert, director of the Grey Art Museum at NYU. “And I said, ‘Well, for the same reason you need a theatre. Students need access. They need to have that hands-on experience.” Today, the Grey Art Museum has the largest collection of modern Iranian and Turkish art outside of Iran and Turkey.

A guided tour group explores the exhibits at the Grey Art Museum.

Get Involved with the Grey

At the Grey Art Museum, there’s no shortage of opportunities to get direct experience. Every year the museum offers internship and work opportunities. “You get to meet everybody,” explains Leah Sweet, head of museum education and programs at the Grey. “We’re a small staff, so you get to know what everyone does. You have a front-row seat to not only learning about what an art museum does but also building wonderful professional skills.”

Learn with an Internship

Here, interns have a role in everything, and every day is different. Hafsa Habib began interning at the Grey as a junior. “I’m an Art History major, so when I saw the job posting on Handshake, I thought, ‘This is perfect!’” she recalls. (“You don’t have to major in Art History to intern here,” notes Sweet. “There are many transferrable skills.”) Now Hafsa’s in her second year of interning, helping with everything from designing flyers and conducting research to planning and giving tours. “Leah [Sweet] really values our opinions and feedback. As a result, it’s an environment where we feel comfortable voicing our creative suggestions. I’ve gained so many valuable skills and experiences,” she shares. 

Get Work Experience

Additionally, the Grey hires about 10 student workers every year as visitor services assistants. “Basically, I engage with guests and help make sure that everyone follows the museum’s guidelines. That way we ensure a safe, engaging, and friendly experience at the Grey,” explains Samantha Long, who works there. She’s concentrating in interdisciplinary creative writing at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. “I love meeting new people, so it’s great to engage with visitors. I not only answer their questions but chat with them as well—about the art, about their relationships to it, and even about their days. Art brings people together, so it’s nice to be a part of that.”

Join the Student Friends Committee

In addition to interning or working at the museum, Sweet encourages undergraduates to join the Student Friends Committee (SFC). The working group, which is relaunching this year after a COVID-19-related hiatus, fosters student leadership by connecting the NYU student body to the Grey. “We try to give them exclusive, behind-the-scenes opportunities that they might not get otherwise,” explains Sweet. For instance, the SFC has planned events, visited the gallery after hours, and met donors and collectors. “It’s really about giving them access and having them be ambassadors.”

Visitors observing the “Americans in Paris” exhibit at the Grey Art Museum.

A Museum, Classroom, and Laboratory

For many NYU classes, the Grey provides a new way to learn. For example, when the museum featured works by a Nobel-winning neuroscientist, NYU medical students viewed the exhibit. Furthermore, art history classes frequently attend the museum’s latest show. What’s more, several creative writing and language classes stop by, seeking to hone their writing and speaking skills. In fact, Samantha recently won a creative writing contest at the Grey. “I’m proud I got that opportunity. The exposure to new people and new information is really inspiring as a writer,” she reflects. Whatever the area of focus, Sweet works with each class to ensure a personalized experience. “It’s less a field trip and more an extension of the class in the gallery,” she explains. “But field trips are good, too!”