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Pure Nonsense: Philadelphia Museum of Art Announces Record-breaking Fundraising, Then Ends Free Admission for College Students

August 18, 2019

Over the last several weeks, the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) has made news with two strikingly different announcements. On August 7, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the PMA had announced a record-breaking fundraising campaign to support big changes coming to the museum. Then on August 14, Billy Penn reported that the PMA was ending its 40-year policy of allowing local college art students into the museum for free. These opposing announcements make me wonder, who exactly is the museum changing for?

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is currently in the midst of some big transformations. So far they’ve raised more than $455 million to pay for those physical and program changes. It’s awesome that the PMA has the connections and support to fund these sorts of exciting updates. It’s a great thing for the museum and the city. I only wish they took that same spirit of fundraising to inspire their donors to support programs that create greater access to the museum.

Honestly, I’m not sure how anyone at the PMA could have taken a look at the world right now and seen, for example, the majority of the top-polling Presidential candidates talking about the undue financial burdens on students and then thought that it’d be a good idea to add to those burdens by eliminating a program they’ve had for 40 years. And frankly, I’m surprised there’s not been more pushback, but I suppose that may come when school is back in.

As the Billy Penn article sites, many students rely on this policy because their courses require museum visits. And at least one student only found out about the change when she went to the museum for a visit. That’s because the announcement of the policy change came out at the beginning of the summer when most students are away. The PMA goes on to explain their thinking in that article, which you can read in full here, but it just seems like a lame excuse to me. And the fact that they buried the announcement in the summer shows me they know it’s a lame excuse too. In short: too many students needed or wanted to use the program, so instead of finding ways to expand it they’re eliminating it.

It deserves to be noted that, at least for now, the museum will still allow grade school students from the local area in for free.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art will be changing a lot over the next few years, I just hope those changes work to bring more Philadelphians into the museum, not create more barriers for entry.

I am rooting for you, PMA. We are all rooting for you. Please, do better!

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