Neon artwork installed at the museum reading 'Education Should Be Free'.

Education Should Be Free

Andrea Bowers’ practice documents and celebrates social movements, making visible the labor inherent in creating change. As an artist who is passionate about activism, she is “trying to change hearts and minds with aesthetics.” In the installation Education Should Be Free (UC Davis), Bowers asserts that education is a human right and should be free from the burdens of student debt. UC Davis students with whom she collaborated expanded the meaning of the statement. Education should be free from racism, from patriarchy, from ableism.  

Drawing us in with its beauty, this bright neon challenges our university community to consider our own engagement with the public education system. How do we envision free education? How do we provide open access to learning opportunities? And how do we enact profound change within our institutions? 

Education Should Be Free. What does it mean to you? 

Students, faculty and staff are carrying forward these and other questions through a series of collaborations with Bowers and the museum. Visit their projects and join the conversation below.

Additional resources


Special thanks to Andrea Bowers, Zut Lorz, Ian Trout, Matt Dilling, Lite Brite Neon, Shawna Peterson, Parrish Placencia, Peterson Neon and the following collaborators:  MFA 1st Year Design Studio 225 students Valentyna Hrushkevych, Quinessa Stibbons, Rova Cigdem Yilmaz, Edward James Whelan and Fatema Tarek Mostafa, led by faculty advisor Associate Professor Brett Snyder.  Art History Practicum students Dorian Aguilar, Larisa Peñaloza Almazán, Marah Carney, Andrea Cota, Lauryn Crum, Qinmi Guo, Rebecca Myers, Daisy Scott, Jane Seslar, Sarita Vindas and Shaina Whaley, led by Susette Min. Engineering Computer Science 162, Web Development students Alison Chen, Morgan Creek, Ani Shenai, William Wu, Grant Koziol, Shaivya Padia, Yingzhe Liu, Andy Cai, Jackie Ou, Ruyi Yang, Wai Hei Ngan, Benjamin Lee, Sang Nguyen, Quang Nguyen, Shelby Sakamoto, Joshua-Troy Meneses, Colton Connor, and Vivian Pham, led by Professor Nina Amenta.


Rope tied between two poles with student schedules hanging off it.

Reflecting Self-Care

UC Davis students envision radical self-care highlighting the work of contemporary artists alongside contributions from the UC Davis community. Reflecting Self-Care is curated by the students of AHI 102 led by Associate Professor, Susette Min.

Screen shots from an Instagram account talking about student debt.

Design MFA Collaboration with Andrea Bowers

In the fall of 2020, in conjunction with Andrea Bowers’ installation Education Should Be Free five design MFA students created two design responses that called on the public to respond to the relationship between education and freedom.

Graphic of a shopping cart with a mortar board hat and diploma

ECS 162 Web Development Projects

In Spring 2021, students in Engineering Computer Science 162, Web Development, suggested projects that responded to Andrea Bowers installation, "Education Should be Free". Of the hundreds of ideas suggested, we chose four as class projects. Here are some of the websites the students built.