The New Museum’s High School Art Program (HSAP) was founded in 1980 and sought to expand the definition of art education as an interdisciplinary and culturally diverse field. HSAP featured collaborations between New York City public schools and the New Museum.

The Visual Knowledge Program developed in 1984 to expand on the innovations of HSAP. VKP enhanced existing high school curricula in English, science, and social studies through semester-long or year-long collaborations with schools. VKP made contemporary art accessible and relevant to students’ real-life experiences.

For over twenty years, artist/instructors affiliated with the Visual Knowledge Program brought contemporary art into the classroom. They exposed students to the processes of scholarship, visual evaluation, and object-making through open discussion and the use of relevant aesthetic, social, political, and historical example. The Visual Knowledge Program employed a discursive, critical pedagogy that discarded traditional claims to universal meaning and fixed rules of teaching. It wove the visual, critical, tactile, and material aspects of art production into an interdisciplinary process that was challenging and often controversial. The end result was an intellectual and sensory pedagogical practice that reflected the ideas and methods of contemporary art. Throughout the course of the collaborations, teachers and artists participated in a breakthrough professional development program organized by the New Museum.

The VKP Web site, launched in March 1999, offered students and teachers the opportunity to download curriculum units and lesson plans, view student and artist exhibitions, create classrooms, and participate in online discussions. The Visual Knowledge Program was awarded a 2003 Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Award for its curriculum called Re-presenting Race in the Digital Age. VKP ended when the New Museum closed it doors on 583 Broadway in May 2004. The New Museum made a decision to transition to a new curriculum development program with a global emphasis called the Global Classroom.


The New Museum has been an innovator in museum education for over twenty-seven years and was one of the first institutions to utilize contemporary art as a critical education tool to engage young people in multiple subject areas.