Admissions Blog

Living the Arts at SIPA

By Ricardo Mondolfi '23
Posted Oct 15 2022

Location is a major factor to consider when choosing where to attend graduate school, and the opportunity to live in New York is one of the main reasons I chose SIPA. You will certainly hear about all the academic and professional advantages of being in the greatest city in the world, but there is a big one worth remembering: New York is a wonderful place in which to live.

New York has one of the most vibrant art scenes in the world. The city is home to world-class museums, concert halls, galleries, and festivals, and so many of them are available for low or no cost. Here are but a few of the places and events that have made my time at SIPA so culturally enriching.


Art Museums

If you are into painting and visual arts, get excited. We are home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Guggenheim Museum (among many others). Each of these is a world-renowned institution with truly incredible collections. In addition to their priceless permanent collections, all of these have itinerant exhibits which mean there will always be something new to see, even if you have attended before.

Many of these museums are completely free for Columbia students to visit through the Passport to Museums initiative. Additionally, a NY Public Library card gives you access to Culture Pass, which provides free entrance for two people to dozens of institutions across all five boroughs.

I would be remiss not to mention Columbia’s own Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, located on our beautiful new Manhattanville campus. Admission is free for everyone. 



On this note there is truly something for everyone. Personally, I have taken advantage of student discounts at Carnegie Hall and at the Lincoln Center, where the NY Philharmonic will soon open its newly renovated Geffen Hall. Student discounts are also available at the Metropolitan Opera and the Ballet. Tickets can be purchased directly from the institutions at discounted prices, or from the Arts Initiative which runs the Ticket and Information Center on campus. (P.S.: you can also get discounted movie tickets at the TIC!)

Classical music aside, New York is home to many music festivals each year, from high-profile events like the Governors Ball to countless free shows, especially over the summer. Personally, I have attended Global Citizen Live for two years in a row and have seen artists such as Coldplay, Billie Eilish, Rosalia, Shawn Mendes, Maneskin, and many more, entirely for free.

When it comes to music, you get to set your own tempo, from on-campus weekly events at the Miller Theater and St. Paul’s Chapel, to history-making performances in the heart of the city. In our neighborhood and in neighboring Harlem, several places offer live jazz: I hear Smoke Jazz & Supper Club and Silvana are SIPA student favorites.


New York has unparalleled offerings for thespians, on Broadway and beyond. At the beginning of each semester, the Arts Initiative sells hundreds of specially-priced tickets to some of the city’s hottest shows during On Sale at the TIC. Tickets fly, so get on it!

During the rest of the year, you can keep an eye out for the best student discounts and rush tickets. Although not student-specific, rush tickets and lotteries are a great way to attend great shows on the cheap, and you still have an advantage over time-crunched tourists because, well, you live here and can go whenever you want.

This year I got to see Daniel Craig (of 007 fame) play Shakespeare’s Macbeth, enjoyed some free Shakespeare in the Park over the summer, and have tickets for an upcoming performance of The Phantom of the Opera. Still looking for a plus-one for that, so…

It makes sense to focus on academic offerings when applying for graduate school, but remember that you’ll also want to have fun when you’re not in class or in the library! As shown here, I think SIPA offers a unique opportunity to attend graduate school in one of the most vibrant art scenes in the world. I, for one, am grateful for it!