Why Free Museum Admission is Such a Big Deal


Big news this week: The Hammer Museum will offer free entrance to all exhibits from now on, thanks to the generous donation of two benevolent donors, Erika J. Glazer and Brenda R. Potter.  Visitors can wander in and out of the museum to their heart’s content, in between appointments or after work, during errands or as part of a super savvy lunch date. How lovely to be able to suggest to a girlfriend to “meet at the Hammer and see their new show before grabbing lunch”.  Or, to promise your kids ice cream if they spend 15 minutes to duck inside for a fun exhibit – bribery being a tried and true, painless way to teach the reluctant art goers that they’re not going to suffer wandering around a gallery.

Free Admission is the Just Do It of Art Appreciation.

As dropping in on a museum turns into something as uncomplicated as picking up the dry cleaning or grabbing a take-out dinner, your curiosity can be sated for free. Say goodbye to trying to decide if such an inquisitive meandering is worth the price of entrance. If you’ve ever visited Washington, D.C. you know how easy it is to drop into the National Galleries from the Mall – gaze adoringly at a John Singer Sargent portrait or a Homer landscape, before you dash back to your normal life.

Free admission is especially nice for families. Bringing a large group to the museum gets pricey. Compound that with the fact that you aren’t sure how your kids are going to like what they see, or if they’ll behave properly in the public space, and it’s easy to look for an alternate activity.

With the financial factor out of the equation, there’s a possibility to make art a part of your daily life.  And, part of your family’s normal adventuring around town. Museums know that they’ll have more foot traffic with free admission, it’s just a question of funding.  The news about the Hammer comes on the heels of last month’s  Free Museum Day during which nearly 20 local museums opened their doors to the public.  Folks came in DROVES – some avid art fans hitting as many as 10 museums that day. That’s because MOCA offered two years of free membership to the museum for anyone that visited 10 museums. To date, 56 people have indicated that they’ll be sending in their ticket stubs to prove they visited 10 different venues. Other museums reported a similar uptick in traffic last month, and are excited to have new visitors come through their door.

Our challenge for 2014 is to take advantage of all the free times that the museums already offer — here’s our listing of the free days around town. Of course, if you love a certain museum and choose to become a member, you’re not only supporting a valued member of your community, your dues allow you to return as many times as you like over the course of the year.

The Autry: Free to the public on the second Tuesday of every month, New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Presidents’ Day.

California Science Center: Free always

The Fowler: Free Always

The Getty and Getty Villa: Museum entrance is always free but visitors must pay for parking

Griffith Observatory: Free always

The Huntington: Free on first Thursday of each month (with advance ticket)

LACMA:  If your kids join NexGen, which is free, they can bring one accompanying adult each time they visit. The second Tuesday of every month is free, and LA County residents can come after 3:00 PM from Mon-Fri. Target sponsors two free days each year – President’s Day and Memorial Day.

MOCA: Free on Thursdays between 5:00 and 8:00 PM

The Norton Simon: Free on Thursdays between 6:00 and 9:00 PM

Pasadena Museum of California Art: Free the first Friday of every month (12: 00–5:00 PM) Free the third Thursday of every month (5:00 – 8:00 PM)

The Skirball: Free on Thursdays

Santa Monica Museum of Art: Free always