American Museum of Natural History (pay what you wish)
Bronx Museum (pay what you wish)
Brooklyn Museum (pay what you wish)
The Cloisters (pay what you wish)
El Museo del Barrio (pay what you wish)
Metropolitan Museum of Art (pay what you wish)
New York City Police Museum (pay what you wish)
P.S.1 MoMA (pay what you wish)
Queens Botanical Garden (free Nov-March)
SculptureCenter (pay what you wish)
Staten Island Museum (pay what you wish)
Studio Museum in Harlem (pay what you wish)
MONTHLY FREE HOURS:
Bronx Museum (First Friday, 6-10 pm)
Brooklyn Children’s Museum (Second Weekend, before 11 am)
Brooklyn Museum (First Saturday, 5-11 pm)
El Museo del Barrio (Third Saturday, 11 am-8 pm)
Neue Gallerie (First Friday, 6-8 pm)
Noguchi Museum (First Friday, pay what you wish)
WEEKLY FREE DAYS or HOURS:
9/11 Memorial Museum 5-8 pm
China Institute 6-8 pm
Staten Island Museum 12-2 pm
Wave Hill 9 am-noon
Bronx Zoo (pay what you wish)
Museum of Jewish Heritage 4-8 pm
Queens Botanical Garden April-October, 3-6 pm
Yeshiva University Museum 5-8 pm
Trinity Church: Concerts at One 1-2 pm (September through May)
Japan Society 6-9 pm
Morgan Library & Museum 7-9 pm
New-York Historical Society 6-8 pm (pay what you wish)
New York Aquarium 3 pm-closing (pay what you wish)
New York Hall of Science 2-5 pm (September through June)
Rubin Museum of Art 7-10 pm
Staten Island Museum 12-2 pm
Whitney Museum of American Art 7-9:30 pm
Brooklyn Botanic Garden 10 am-noon
New York Botanical Garden 10 am-noon
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 5:45-7:45 pm (pay what you wish)
Wave Hill 9 am-noon
Frick Collection 11 am-1 pm (pay what you wish)
New York Hall of Science 10-11 am (September through June)
Queens Botanical Garden April-October, 4-6 pm
An Immigrant Revels in Land Of the Free
By DAVID GONZALEZDEC. 21, 1996
FREE Verdi. Free Bergman. Free Christo. And, why not, Free Bird, too. Sound like the demands of an odd terrorist group with a soft spot for Lynyrd Skynyrd? Consider it the rallying cry of Natella Vaidman, a Russian immigrant who came to America in 1979 to savor freedom — with the emphasis on free.
Ms. Vaidman, a former physicist and systems analyst, publishes ”Free Time,” a monthly listing of cultural events around the city that are free, or almost. With a keen eye for those posters and fliers seen plastered on bulletin boards, bus stops and various museums and college buildings, she created a survival guide for people longing for culture but short on cash. She revels in a city that is abuzz with so much culture that they’re giving it away.
”What excites me is that the city just gives it to you,” she said. ”When you come to New York from somewhere else, you have such sharp eyes. You suck the city in. You inhale it, because it’s so exciting. A person who lives in New York sees a sign on a bus for the Philharmonic in the park and they don’t pay attention because they see it every day. But when you just come and see that, you think that there must be something else.”
And how. When she started publishing in 1987, her listings averaged about five a day. Now her 36-page magazine boasts an average of 30 daily events. They range from lectures on topics like the supernova Ejecta to lighter happenings like a screening of ”Some Like It Hot.” the idea for her magazine in 1985, while working at Time Inc. A co-worker who learned about his colleagues’ interests would put notices about free performances and lectures in their mailboxes. Ms. Vaidman went to one of those, a lunchtime screening of Borodin’s opera ”Prince Igor” at a library.
”O.K., I go to movie and work a little bit later,” she said. ”It blew my mind. I can see a first-rate movie in a good hall at lunch for free. Entirely free. I talked to my friends and they knew nothing about it.”
WHAT a country. She began to collect listings, eventually creating a computerized database and a schedule of places to contact. She prints 5,000 copies, sold by mail and on newsstands for $1.25 an issue. Events are free; paper and ink are not.
”A lot of things in America start from personal experience and desire,” she said. ”When people realize that something is not there, they create it.”
One of her favorite finds is the Nikolas Roerich Museum, which has Sunday concerts in its Upper West Side town house. Her quirkiest choice is a Shakespeare troupe that performs in modern dress in Washington Square Park.
”It’s traditional street theater,” she said. ”Not that many people there. You got to schlep from corner to corner. Sometimes not good quality, but interesting.”
Bob Levis, a film maker, praised the magazine for ferreting out cultural gems in the midst of the hectic city, sometimes even in his own neighborhood. There’s a certain democracy that he enjoys.
”Cultural events, you want people to see them,” he said. ”Not to charge the Broadway prices of $70 or $80. That takes a lot of the thrill out of it. You want people to be doing them for the love of them.”
OR for the love of tax breaks and name recognition. Ms. Vaidman is amazed at how much philanthropy and corporate sponsorship have helped fuel the free scene. And the arrival of large bookstores with readings and signings have been responsible for such a boom in listings that Ms. Vaidman joked she could publish an edition just about them.
She contrasts that abundance with Europe: on a recent visit to Prague, she could not find one free concert. In Paris, pretty much the same. Forget Moscow.
”In Soviet times the government paid for everything,” she said. ”Now there is nothing free going on because they became capitalists. They are aware of the power and allure of money. Philanthropy is far from their mind.”
Even in other American cities, she said, there is little to rival what she has found here. Miami? Pavarotti gave a free concert. Once.
And Philadelphia, where she first lived after Moscow? ”To me, a city is so bustling with energy, it’s ready to explode,” she said. ”When I went to Philadelphia, I saw buildings, but I didn’t feel the city.”
New York, in comparison, can keep you busy with free culture if you can find a way to fit it into your schedule. She found out.
”I don’t have time,” she said. ”That’s what happened: slowly but surely I stopped going.”
Here’s a direct link to this lady’s website: