Museums for All program opens 'wonder factories' with affordable admission costs

·4 min read
The Columbus Museum of Art, 480 E. Broad St., is a participant in the Museums for All program.
The Columbus Museum of Art, 480 E. Broad St., is a participant in the Museums for All program.

Cindy Foley describes museums as "wonder factories."

"They are places where our curiosity is sparked and are places to see the world through new eyes," said Foley, the Scantland Family executive deputy director of learning, experience and engagement at the Columbus Museum of Art. "We can imagine things not as they are, but as they could be."

Now through a program called Museums for All, a national initiative that began in Washington, D.C., at the Institute for Museums and Library Services, there's a way to make the "wonder factories" affordable for everybody.

Six major museums in Columbus are part of the Museums for All initiative, which is now in its second year: Columbus Museum of Art, Center of Science and Industry, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, National Veterans Memorial and Museum, Ohio History Center and Ohio Village and Wexner Center for the Arts.

Each museum is providing admission discounts for SNAP recipients that range from free to $3.45 per person. Tickets are different at each location so check each website for specific pricing details.

Youngsters enjoyed the recent "The Science of Big Machines" event at COSI, which is part of the Museums for All initiative.
Youngsters enjoyed the recent "The Science of Big Machines" event at COSI, which is part of the Museums for All initiative.

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Museums for All cards available

Access to the museums for the discounted price can also come from a Museums for All card as an alternative to providing a SNAP card.

"We have the Museums For All card, which eliminates all the stigmas of having to show your service card," Foley said. "This simplifies the process. It’s a card that has been given to you because you qualify and you can just show it at a desk at any of the museums."

The discounted prices allow those who wouldn't usually think about going, a chance to see the museums Foley raves about.

"I think we need spaces that cultivate that kind of thinking and connection. You are connected to the world in a different way," Foley said. "We work hard to be spaces that can provide some level of imagination but also grounded into what can change and what progress looks like."

The Ohio Village is located on the campus of the Ohio History Connection at 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus. The history center participates in the Museums for All program.
The Ohio Village is located on the campus of the Ohio History Connection at 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus. The history center participates in the Museums for All program.

Collaboration, creating open invitation is vital to program's success

Collaboration has been the key for the Museums for All program success in Columbus.

As the six museums came together to become a hub city, Foley said they realized there was more to the program and museum attendance than just cost. The community must feel welcome in the museum and for some, that's not the case, she said.

"The bigger problem isn’t always a financial one, it may be a psychological one. They don’t see a museum space for them," Foley said.

Combating that was about more than just sending out an email or a Facebook post promoting the program. Foley said everybody involved knew they needed to get involved with community organizations that people trusted.

One of those was the Mid-Ohio Food Collective. That helped change everything for the program.

The Mid-Ohio Food Collective is the largest food bank in Ohio, but does a lot of other work for communities as well. It hosts community resource fairs that include opportunities to speak with various nonprofit or human resource organizations to finds ways to support one another.

Although the community resource fairs are normally held in parking lots, the Mid-Ohio Food Collective had the idea to bring the fairs to the museums. They held two, one last fall and in the spring, at the Columbus Museum of Art. The next one, from 3 to 7 p.m. Aug. 19  will be held at the Ohio History Connection.

"Not only do they get connected to the human resource organizations they need and know, but then they learn about us as well," Foley said. "We move from museum to museum. ... What’s been fantastic is we had 400 (people) in the spring."

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And the benefits of the program continue to grow.

A year into the Museums For All program, it has collaborated with other organizations such as the Charitable Pharmacy of Central Ohio. The organization provides affordable pharmacy services and coordinates access to health care for people. It also started giving a Museums for All card to people any time they got a prescription filled.

"That’s the interesting part — the way we are partnering with these social service agencies who are helping us distribute the cards to their community," Foley said.

As the program enters the summer, giving people a chance to get inside, avoid the heat, but also still having something to do, Foley knows that Museums for All continues to be a vital connection to the community.

Cameron Teague Robinson CTeagueRob@gannett.com; Twitter: @cj_teague

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Museums for All provides affordable admission to Columbus locations