Occupy Museums as Public Pedagogy and Justice Work


  • Tal Berry
  • Noah Fischer
  • Alyssa Greenberg University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Arthur Polendo


For Occupy Museums, the mainstream art museum is an informal learning space, in which social, cultural and economic hierarchies are perpetuated by powerful individuals and corporations and absorbed by the public.  Museums privilege elite patrons and corporations, whose financing for exhibitions and programs has filled in the significant gaps left by severe cuts in public funding.  By resisting unionization efforts and relying on low-wage precarious labor, museums perpetuate labor injustices.  By furthering dominant narratives of art history and presenting an overwhelmingly white male artistic canon, museums reinforce social and cultural hierarchy.

This interview is organized into themed sections.  First, by exposing how museums teach visitors, Occupy Museums exposes invisible power imbalances and hierarchies.  Next, through interventions at institutions such as MoMA that promote public access to museums and collaboration, Occupy Museums hacks into this problematic museum pedagogy of strict hierarchy and passive learning.  Finally, Occupy Museums proposes an alternative museum pedagogy based on their own practices that promotes social justice.

Author Biographies

Tal Berry

Tal Beery is an artist, educator, and organizer based in Brooklyn and Sullivan County, New York. His current projects include Eco Practicum (with Eugenia Manwelyan), DebtFair (with Occupy Museums), and Yes Lab (with the Yes Men).


Noah Fischer

Noah Fischer is a Brooklyn-based artist.  His exhibitions have explored technological, political, and social progress by way of lo-tech electrical sound/light installations and assembly lines.  Since 2011, Fischer's art and life activities have merged with the culture and energy and aim of the global protest movement, from which he initiated Occupy Subways and Occupy Museums.

Alyssa Greenberg, University of Illinois at Chicago

Alyssa Greenberg is a doctoral student in the Department of Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She works at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum as an education assistant, and her research interests include museum pedagogy and the museum as a site of activism.

Arthur Polendo

Arthur Polendo is an artist who lives and works in New York City.  He has exhibited in the United States and France and has taught a variety of college-level art courses for over 9 years. Polendo earned his Ph.D. degree in Fine Arts and Critical Studies, conferred by Texas Tech University in 2011. Polendo oversaw construction of Occupy Wall Street’s Slotbot, a 14-foot tall movable robot that was included in NYC’s 2011 Halloween Village Parade. Polendo is also a member of Occupy Museums.