What is a museum today? A giant fun house? A really artsy mall? Museums are wildly diverse in their sizes, annual operating budgets, missions, and their urban context.

In the summer of 2013, a group of 15 public high school students from across the Hudson Valley participated in an Urban Investigation project in collaboration with CUP, the Dia Art Foundation, and teaching artist Katarzyna Balug. The group asked: “What is the role of a museum in a city?”

The group interviewed museum directors, curators, and educators. They also spoke with artists, academics, and cultural consultants to examine different ways a museum can impact a city. Students found that some interviewees saw museums as temples for reflection, others considered them educational hubs, while some recognized museums as tourist magnets, or incubators for community activities.

Armed with their research, the group explored how a museum and its host city can influence each other in multiple ways, and prototyped museums for centuries from now: museums that lack walls, that are utopian, dystopian, carved from precious stones, or run by residents. These large-scale models form the bedrock of an illustrated booklet they created to teach others what they learned and present alternative museum futures.

On Saturday, October 5th 2013, at Dia:Chelsea students were joined by Yasmil Raymond, curator of Dia Art Foundation; Prerana Reddy, Director of Public Programs & Community Engagement for the Queens Museum; and Gonzalo Casals, former Director of Education and Public Programs at El Museo del Barrio, and discussed the students’ project.

They also presented their work on October 19th, 2013 to museumgoers at Dia:Beacon’s Community Free Day, where they were joined by community members, two Beacon mayors (past and present), and a state assembly member. In addition to presenting Museumopolis, students worked with the Museum Teen Summit to lead gallery tours and an interactive workshop.

Get your own copy of the booklet here!

What People are Saying

“Before this project, I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence, and I wasn’t good with people. After doing all those interviews, and seeing that the interviewees had a high opinion of me, I have gotten a lot of self-confidence.” – Jazlen Mason, student

“I learned problem-solving, which is helpful. I thought things had one answer. Here, we had to think about things from different perspectives, not always just one.” – Adrianna Simmons, student

Resources & Links

Dia Art Foundation is a multi-disciplinary contemporary arts organization renowned for initiating, supporting, presenting, and preserving art projects.

Funding Credits

This project is supported in part by the Dyson Foundation; the Union Square Awards, a project of the Tides Center; the Lily Auchincloss Foundation; and the Scherman Foundation.

Special Thanks

Susan Batton (Managing Director, Dia:Beacon), Genevieve Arle, Kiran Chapman, Kiana Carrington, Iveethe Molina, Maya Fell, Iyana Jones, Mackenzie Hammer, Seunghee Kim, Billy Zhao (Museum Teen Summit), Marit Dewhurst (Director, Art Education, City College of New York), Libby Ellis, Brent Reidy (Principal, Consultant, AEA Consulting), Clara Lou Gould (Former Mayor, Beacon), Amanda Garufi, Thomas Hirschhorn,  Erik Farmer & Yasmil Raymond (Artist; President of the Resident Association of Forest Houses; Curator, Gramsci Monument), Sarah Knotz, Claire Lofrese, Daniel Oates-Kuhn, Mireille Pilloud, Annie Polland (Vice President, Programs and Education, Tenement Museum), Jessica Reisman, Charlie Rodstrom, Sarah Serpas, Desiré Vincent, Rita Wise, Wendy Woon (Deputy Director of Education, MoMA), Christine Yao, Stephanie Yee (Homespun Foods), Sharon Zukin (Professor, Sociology, CUNY)


  • CUP
  • Teaching Artist
  • Katarzyna Balug
  • Project Lead
  • Valeria Mogilevich
  • Project Support
  • Pema Domingo-Barker
  • Sam Holleran
  • Dia Art Foundation
  • Manager of Education
  • April Lee
  • Education Coordinator
  • Meagan Mattingly
  • Interns
  • Hallie Greenberg
  • Quinn Moreland
  • Students
  • Mary Akinmola
  • Ira Cekici
  • Jazhane Crockett
  • Curtis Eckley
  • Catherine Felton
  • Zachary Gacer
  • Sean Grogan
  • Jazlen Mason
  • Michelle Moynihan
  • Rachel O’Mara
  • Elisabeth Olivencia
  • Patrick Roa
  • Aurora Saradjian
  • Adrianna Simmons
  • Airika Yee