For me, Sundays at the Philadelphia Museum of Art were like going to church. I went because it was good for my soul, it got me thinking about the big picture (literally and metaphorically) and, like Sunday mass, it was free. Like the spacious apses and gothic spires of cathedrals, the PMA’s architecture inspires awe — it was modeled on a temple after all. And while I usually don’t stray far from the Modernist wing, the medieval section has a lovely array of religious diptychs, in case I am so inclined.
My Sunday tradition, however, came to end this summer when the PMA decided to limit its pay-what-you-wish Sundays to the first Sunday of every month. To add insult to injury, all general admissions have increased by $2 — entrance now costs $12 for students and $16 for adults. Sundays spent strolling the galleries had become an inexpensive tradition for many Penn students — one that I will sorely miss. A $12 admission plus another $15 for the cab ride, and this frugalista is looking at a pricey Sunday diversion. Museum reps cited the current economic climate as the reason for the changes. But recession or not, the truth is that Philadelphia’s museums have never been as student-friendly as many of their peer institutions.
In France, for example, anyone under the age of 25 can peruse the Musee d’Orsay or linger in the Louvre at will. As of April 2009, France extended free admission to all national museums and monuments for all young people residing in the European Union, regardless of their nationality. Two months later, the PMA announced the end of free Sundays. In this case, the grass really is greener on the other side of the pond.
Closer to home, most New York City museums, like the majority of museums in America, charge students for tickets. Acknowledging the cultural value of exploring the city for its students, Columbia University initiated the ‘Passport to New York’ program. It guarantees students free access to 30 New York City museums, including the Met, the Guggenheim and MOMA. By flashing their Columbia Card, students have unlimited access to some of the nation’s best art.
Like our Columbia counterparts, we Penn students chose to attend college in an urban setting at least in part to take advantage of all that a city has to offer (Amy Gutmann calls it integrating knowledge.). And for me, that includes art museums. Let’s face it, if we wanted to be spend weekends stranded on a suburban campus we would have gone to Princeton. But most Penn students haven’t been to the PMA since NSO, and that’s an aspect of the Penn mentality that can be combated easily.
Much like the secret Chipotle menu, there are aspects of the PMA admission policy that don’t make it on their price board (or their web site for that matter). Art history and fine arts students can get in for free with student ID. The rest of the Penn population, though, doesn’t receive any further discount — though I suppose you could don a beret and paint-splattered jeans (Seriously, pretending to be an art student isn’t that hard, and nothing differentiates arts students from everyone else on PennCards.). Loopholes aside, free entrance for students should be universal and most importantly, advertised.
By designating this year’s theme as ‘Arts in the City,’ Penn has acknowledged the importance of arts in the life of city students. But rather than celebrating the artistic spirit with flags on street lights, the University should make real changes to infuse art in the experiences of future classes of Penn students. Adopting a program like Columbia’s ‘Passport to New York’ would do just that. In making visits to art galleries part of the average Penn student’s routine (just as going to the movies or a concert might be), the University would be fostering a generation of art lovers and patrons.
Ashley Takacs is a College senior from Buffalo, NY. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.orgComments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.