Free Education! The Free University of New York, Alternate U, and Learning Liberation


October 11, 2018 – January 27, 2019
Opening reception: October 11, 2018, 6-9pm
Curated by Jakob Jakobsen and Interference Archive

Rooted in an examination of the history of the Free University of New York (FUNY), a 1960s experiment in radical education, this exhibition and event series reflects on the questions: What is a university? What does the university have that we want? What does the university have that we don’t want? How would a university look if we could build one from scratch?

By combining original archival documents from FUNY as well as from related projects, including Alternate U and the Freedom Schools movement, this exhibition explores what it means to have a space for community at the intersection of art and politics, and how we generate history together through our work in these community spaces.

In our current moment, when the price of education amounts to crippling student debt and underemployment is a reality for even the most qualified post-secondary graduates, Free Education! aims to generate conversation within our community–across generations and socio-economic realities –about what it looks like to reimagine possibilities for education.

Through our exhibition as well as related events involving past participants in FUNY-related projects we will look at the various leftist threads across the United States that led to FUNY, from a 1964 trip to Cuba organized by Progressive Labor, 1960s student movements, the Lower East Side poetry scene, the Free Speech movement in Berkeley, and the peace movement; and we trace these through to projects that evolved from FUNY including feminist militancy, Newsreel filmmakers, Tolstoy College, poetry publications, radical psychiatry, Feminist theatre, and more. Our series of related free public programs will come into dialog with organizers of current, similar projects, including Free University NYC, the Strike Debt project, and organizers at Cooper Union.
This exhibition includes an audio component featuring dialogue based on the transcripts of ten interviews with former participants of the Free University of New York and Alternate U recorded in 2017 and 2018. Interviewees include Susan Sherman, David McReynolds, Stanley Aronowitz, AB Spellman, Keith Brooks, Norman Fruchter, Robert Machover, Miriam Frank, Sue Simensky and Joe Berke.  We are grateful to them for their generosity in sharing of their life stories.

Additional material in the exhibition is made available through Susan Sherman, Keith Brooks, Perry Brass, Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, and PETT archive.

This exhibit curators hope that this exhibition will recognize and honor the legacy of David McReynolds, war resister and Free University lecturer, 1930 – 2018.

Program Series
An event series accompanying the exhibition will facilitate audience engagement through community discussion about the history of radical education projects.  Check back on our website for updates to our list of related programming. Currently scheduled events include:
Talk and Screening with Robert Machover and Norman Fruchter, Wednesday, October 17, 7-9pm
Poetry and women’s theater at Free University of New York and Alternate U, Sunday, October 21, 3pm-5pm
K-12 Radical Education in NYC: a collaborative investigation, Saturday, December 1, 3-5pm
Radical Education Wikipedia Editathon, Sunday, December 2, 2-5pm
Radical Psychology at Alternate U and Beyond, Wednesday, December 12, 6-8pm
Tour of Free Education! with Sue Simensky Bietila and Jakob Jakobsen, Saturday, December 15, 5:30pm
Gay Liberation Front, Come Out!, and Gay Dance Parties at Alternate U and Beyond, Thursday, January 24, 7-9pm
Free Education? Contemporary Struggles – Roundtables & Film Screening (Closing Event), Sunday, January 27, 2-6pm
In the tradition of our exhibition publications at Interference Archive, the publication for Free Education! will exist more as a set of resources that can live beyond the exhibition, and that can be useful to those who are not able to visit the exhibition in person. Created in the do-it-yourself style of much of Free University’s output, using the risograph shared by Interference Archive’s coworking community, this publication will include reproductions of archival material used in the exhibition alongside curatorial text and transcription of interviews with FUNY participants.
Education and Class Visits
Free Education! offers high school- and college-level classes the opportunity to visit the exhibition. Courses or organizing groups focused on education, collective work, and alternative community spaces will find this exhibition especially relevant.
We are most able to organize visits during our regular open hours: Thursdays from 1-9pm, and Friday/Saturday/Sunday from 12-5pm. To arrange a visit, contact
Thursday, 1—9pm
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 12—5pm
314 7th Street, Brooklyn NY 11215 (2 blocks from F/G/R trains at 4th Ave./9th St.)
For more information, contact
This project is sponsored by a Humanities New York Action Grant. Any views expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Exhibition Dates

October 11, 2018

January 27, 2019