Why Don't More Poor Kids Get to See Art?
April 6, 2014 9:41 PM   Subscribe

Increasing the accessibility of cultural capital: "In New York, a place whose cultural institutions attract people from around the world, there are residents who not only have never visited those institutions but also some who have never even been uptown."
posted by gemutlichkeit (41 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm glad NationSwell was there to document CoolCulture's attempt to get PoorPeople to go FarAway to see OldStuff made by DeadWhiteDudes.
posted by threeants at 9:55 PM on April 6, 2014 [8 favorites]


*blink*

That's out of date photo the Met uses stickers now, not buttons much to my chagrin


okay reading the article now.
posted by The Whelk at 9:56 PM on April 6, 2014


I'm glad NationSwell was there to document CoolCulture's attempt to get PoorPeople to go FarAway to see OldStuff made by DeadWhiteDudes.

I get that sentiment, but I also think it's a little uncharitable. Far and away the most popular, audience diverse and successful events for most long-hair art institutions are their free, come one come all performances. Look at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, the Met's and NY Phil's concerts in the park, MOMA Target Fridays. The demand from diverse, under-served populations is there for this type of art and culture, but there is a major accessibility issue.

That said, there is something I find really distasteful or patronizing or something about Cool Culture's work (may be in part because of such a stupid name. Come on olds, you're really going to try to make the Met cool to poor kids on the LES (wait, there are still poor people on the LES?) by calling yourselves 'cool culture'?). I can't quite put my finger on it, exactly. I think it might be because it feels more like trying to bring under-served kids "up" to the level of the so-called high art institutions, when I really think it ought to be the other way round.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:32 PM on April 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


Here is the list of participating institutions [PDF]. It seems pretty diverse.
posted by taz at 10:34 PM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Okay, that's actually an amazing list of places.

I don't know. I think it's probably a really critical and good program that makes a lot of this stuff accessible for a lot of people. I'm just a cranky socialist who thinks it ought to all be basically free in the first place. Doesn't this shit belong to all of us? Do we need another NPO competing for the same limited NPO funding pool in order to make the other NPOs affordable? Something something perfect enemy of the good.

It's hard to argue with a program that gets more kids to the Children's Museum and the Anne Frank Center and the Zoo.

still do not like the name
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:42 PM on April 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was mostly taking the mickey out of this NationSwell thing, which seems kind of silly and inexplicably believes that we are currently suffering from a lack of quasi-inspirational clickbait websites that confuse forwarding with reporting.

But I also think the conception of Culture as something you "go to" is one confined primarily to a very narrow class, which is-- surprise surprise-- the same class that tends to produce High Culture.
posted by threeants at 10:42 PM on April 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


(Like, yeah, that list is actually pretty awesome. The original article made the whole thing seem a lot stuffier, which is probably not what they were going for.)
posted by threeants at 10:44 PM on April 6, 2014


Yeah, the article made it seem much more "better teach these poor people how to act in a fancy museum."
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:47 PM on April 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm just a cranky socialist who thinks it ought to all be basically free in the first place.

St. Louis's world-class art museum, zoo, science center, and history museum are all free, thanks to local taxes. It totally shocked me when I went to another city for the first time and learned that their museums charged for admission. Before then, it never once crossed my mind that such cultural institutions shouldn't be free to all. Do any other cities do such a thing? They all should.
posted by zsazsa at 11:34 PM on April 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


Do any other cities do such a thing? Washington, DC, where I grew up, and Madison, WI, where I live now, do.
posted by escabeche at 12:04 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Admission to the Indianapolis Museum of Art is free. Most of the other museums (and zoo) here charge admission, though. Though it seems like most of them do try to have special lower cost or free admission days sprinkled throughout the year.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 12:43 AM on April 7, 2014


Do any other cities do such a thing? Plenty in Europe would. For example in London the following are free:

V&A (Victoria & Albert Museum)

British Museum

Museum of London

Science Museum

Natural History Museum

National Gallery

National Maritime Museum

Tate Modern
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:45 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there's a ton of free museums and galleries in London. The most famous ones are national govt-run. Many others are sponsored or private or run by local authorities. here's a more complete list . Though I see that the Wellcome Collection, a major medical science (& art) museum, is missing from the list so it can't be that complete.
posted by Bwithh at 1:04 AM on April 7, 2014


Oops, my bad - I m tired and misread the above link - it's actually a special scheme for museum organization members,. Here's an alternative . Sorry.
posted by Bwithh at 1:13 AM on April 7, 2014


This surprising problem—a simple transit hurdle—is just one of the many barriers that separate New York’s lower-income and immigrant populations from its renowned arts and cultural offerings.

Transportation is always a problem.

I have spent a fair amount of time exploring the cultural capital in low-class, dive bars all over the world and I have never met a wealthy, theatre-going, vernissage-loving, MFA educated, liberal in any of them. Surely it cannot be a simple lack of interest in the rich, cultural, working-class heritage these amazing places have to offer so I can only conclude that it is the lack of valet parking.
posted by three blind mice at 1:43 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, there's a ton of free museums and galleries in London.

Transportation is always a problem.


How many poor people from way outside the capital use them though?
posted by marienbad at 1:53 AM on April 7, 2014


Yeah, there's a ton of free museums and galleries in London. The most famous ones are national govt-run.

It is worth noting that this wasn't always the case. The last Government introduced free entry in 2001 and it has been a huge success. Particularly relevent to this thread: "The number of visitors from an ethnic minority background to DCMS-sponsored museums has increased by 177.5% (compared to an overall increase in visits of 54%)."

How many poor people from way outside the capital use them though?

The UK is a heavily centralised and the fact London is the political, financial, cultural and media capital is undoubtedly a barrier to those who don't live there. But not all the free national museums are in London. From the same link above:
Museums are taking steps to encourage more visitors from lower socio-economic groups, and the regional national museums are demonstrating particular success – with 26% of visits to the National Museums Liverpool and 17% of visits to the Royal Armouries in Leeds by people from lower socio-economic groups in 2010/11
posted by ninebelow at 3:01 AM on April 7, 2014


I'm glad NationSwell was there to document CoolCulture's attempt to get PoorPeople to go FarAway to see OldStuff made by DeadWhiteDudes.

How much of the work in the Met's Rockefeller Collection of Pacific Islands art or its Asian or African or Egyptian collections are by DeadWhiteDudes?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:10 AM on April 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


How many poor people from way outside the capital use them though?
Probably very few, depending how you're defining "poor". Intercity rail travel isn't cheap, and accommodation in London is insanely expensive unless you're able/willing to shop around for hostels, B&Bs or empty student accommodation around the outskirts.

That said, I was taken on two or three heavily subsidised (or free if I couldn't pay) school trips to London museums from Wales. Additionally, many (most?) of the museums around the country are free to enter (although temporary exhibitions sometimes have a fairly nominal charge), so getting to London is far from your only option. ninebelow's link has a list of free national museums, and offhand I can think of five or six other museums and galleries that have free entry.

The last Government introduced free entry in 2001 and it has been a huge success.
I'm actually amazed that it has lasted this long; I'd have expected this to be axed before the library cuts.
posted by metaBugs at 3:25 AM on April 7, 2014


I'm actually amazed that it has lasted this long; I'd have expected this to be axed before the library cuts.

I think there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, economic. The national museums make a huge contribution to the tourist economy and this argument has been accepted by politicians.

Secondly, political. If the Government goes back to charging, there would be a huge outcry in the media and they would be held directly responsible. With libraries, however, it is down to individual local authorities to make spending decisions so everything is at arm's length. Yes, there are protests at the local level but at the national level, it is all subsumed into the wider austerity measures.
posted by ninebelow at 3:51 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


The City of St. Louis and the County of St. Louis have the "Zoo-Museum Tax District", where a small slice of the property tax goes to the museums (St. Louis Science Center, St. Louis Art Museum and the History Museum of St. Louis) and the St. Louis Zoo.

The caveat is these museums can either accept the largesse or charge admission. They, being not dumb, accept the tax, thus, the main museums in St. Louis are free. Which I personally think is brilliant. They're smallish museums, but they're good ones, and while the St. Louis Zoo is also small, it's one of the best.

Chicago's museums used to have pure free days, most of them now only have free-if-you-are-an-Illinois-resident days. For a while, they were all on Tuesday, but now they're scattered about.

I'm actually amazed that it has lasted this long; I'd have expected this to be axed before the library cuts.

Doesn't really make the Government any money, plus after the tuition hikes, I honestly think they were afraid to try.
posted by eriko at 3:51 AM on April 7, 2014


The Cleveland Museum of Art is free. It is also world class (seriously, I know you are reading "Cleveland" and rolling your eyes, but it's an incredible institution: 100% of the collection is digitized and scrolls by in gallery one and you can use an ipad app to "drag" images "into" your ipad and make your own self guided tour.) Its incredible atrium is also featured as the Avengers HQ in the latest Captain America blockbuster (and I am a little ticked that the museum isn't promoting that fact far and wide, that would be a great way to encourage lots of folks to come).
posted by cnanderson at 4:14 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


How much of the work in the Met's Rockefeller Collection of Pacific Islands art or its Asian or African or Egyptian collections are by DeadWhiteDudes?

Not making any assumptions about that particular mueseum, but in the mueseums I've been through recently, few such exhibits were sold or given willingly or fairly by the original owners to the DeadWhiteDude collectors...
posted by Jimbob at 4:28 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


In the mid-1990s, I was a high school teacher in East Flatbush, in Brooklyn, NY. My students were all minorities and low income.

I taught a humanities class. We would do a section on art history. I would give extra credit if they would visit the Met, and look at some of the art that we had discussed. I would tell the students that the entry fee is suggested, and they are allowed to pay just one penny to enter.

Some would go every year, and invariably, they would report being made to feel like second class citizens because they didnt pay the full amount. In three or four years, I must have had 50 students who reported being made to feel low by the ticket sellers at the Met. Never once did one report that the Met was happy to have a low income minority visitor, if anything they reported being followed by security after being called out on the ticket purchase line.

From my own personal experience, the Met does not want certain residents of the city to visit the museum.
posted by Flood at 4:31 AM on April 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


The acquisition is a separate issue, JimBob (although in the case of the Rockefeller collection it seems to have been on the up-and-up); I was addressing threeants' categorization of museums as only having stuff by "DeadWhiteDudes".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:31 AM on April 7, 2014


Doesn't this miss the point by quite a bit? It was never entrance fees that kept me from going to museums and other cultural events as a poor kid. I definitely went on a few field trips to places like the NC Museum of Natural Science, and the NC Zoo. I enjoyed them, too, and have gone back to them (and to other museums, including the Met) as an adult. The key is, though, that I grew up poor and now find myself in the educated middle class. My parents were the determinants of what I saw as a kid, and my parents were uneducated and poor. I'm not criticizing them, but this is the key point that prevents poor kids from being "cultured" at a young age—their parents have no idea what they would take them to see, where it is, or why they'd ever need to see it anyway.

I wrote a fifteen page paper on a few related pieces of art from the Renaissance collection at the NC Museum of Art. It was great! I'll never be an expert on visual arts, but I found the exercise interesting and edifying because, at that point, I had context. My parents, who worked in blue-collar jobs, and whose parents were mill workers and farmers, and whose grandparents were farmers, and whose great-grandparents were farmers, and so on, had no context for appreciating a "culture" that wasn't theirs (or mine).
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:18 AM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


The same sort of hurdle exists for national parks. There's some preamble out there how national parks belong to all Canadians, but really they belong to those who have the means and leisure to travel.

This is a cool program, I need to see if a local one exists although there is one for sports and live performances, but not museums as far as I know. I really could have benefited from a program like this. The only time I went to cultural institutions as a kid was on field trips.

Even though cost is not a barrier for me now, it has become one for my senior parents too as their discounts shrink or disappear. Poor seniors are often overlooked (but quite visible at lunch at the homeless shelter). I 'm always balking at admission for the zoo or science centre - $20 for adult admission seems so prohibitive :/
posted by Calzephyr at 5:37 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Poor conservative white American adults should also have the same type of program benefitting them. I would argue focusing on them would have a much larger positive impact on the debate and future of America.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:18 AM on April 7, 2014


My parents were the determinants of what I saw as a kid, and my parents were uneducated and poor.

I think that in many ways, New York City kids have a lot freer reign than in more suburban areas.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:45 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


How much of the work in the Met's Rockefeller Collection of Pacific Islands art or its Asian or African or Egyptian collections are by DeadWhiteDudes?

Probably exceedingly little. What proportion does that make up of the city's public fine arts collections? Who curated it?
posted by threeants at 9:07 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Threeants, I think you're trying to have a different argument than the one that's actually going on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:10 AM on April 7, 2014


Hrm? I'm not trying to have any argument. I think it's pretty clear that my initial comment was not an avowed claim that 100.00% of New York City art museum works were made by now-deceased white people, but I am happy to reply to your question and confirm that most works in the Met's Asian collection were probably made by Asian people.
posted by threeants at 9:34 AM on April 7, 2014


Going to memail.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 AM on April 7, 2014


Isn't time also a massive barrier here? Even in the socialist utopia of museums and transit being free, you still can't dish out free time. Someone needs to take the kid to the museum, and it's unlikely to be a parent working a 60 hour week.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 10:36 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


It totally shocked me when I went to another city for the first time and learned that their museums charged for admission

For what it's worth: a piece of wisdom I learned from my family and utilized in my broke-student days: the Met asks for a /suggested/ donation. It does not have an admission price. If you want to, you can walk up there with one dollar or even one penny and get in the door. This is not advertised, but the admission price is not what keeps people from seeing this stuff. And the Met is, as EmpressCallipygos notes, astoundingly diverse.
posted by corb at 11:22 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


> From my own personal experience, the Met does not want certain residents of the city to visit the museum

Backing that up: I never got any stink-eye for paying just a few bucks when I went to the Met, and I was in my twenties and white.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:40 AM on April 7, 2014


One thing that the Toronto Public Library has is the MAP (Museum & Art Pass) program. Library patrons can receive an admission pass (usually a family admission) for a variety of Museums and Galleries in and around the city. In designated priority neighbourhoods I think you can also get passes for the Science Centre and Toronto Zoo. A lot of the passes are limited so there is usually a line-up to get them but it is a pretty good way to make these things slightly more accessible to people.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:41 AM on April 7, 2014


Also, lack of knowledge on the part of parents must be a factor. My wife and I spent our only day in Madrid between the Prado and Reina Sofia museums, but we are firmly at the "I know what I like, just don't ask me why" level of art appreciation. I could see taking our daughter to an art gallery in a few years become a pretty big demonstration in the depths of our ignorance. There are so many easier options out there (natural history museum, musical theatre, zoo, etc) I could see how going to art galleries becomes something you just don't get around to.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:53 AM on April 7, 2014


The Cleveland Museum of Art is free. It is also world class (seriously, I know you are reading "Cleveland" and rolling your eyes, but it's an incredible institution:

Preach. I grew up in Cleveland, and it still boggles my mind that other cities' art museums aren't free (or at least offering free general admission, with fees for special exhibitions, which is what Cleveland does). Being able to drop in for a half an hour before closing time to check on "my" works without worrying about admissions fees - or even a ticketing process - went such a long way towards growing my sense of ownership and pride in the museum, as well as my understanding of the art. It's easier to take the time to read labels, really look at things, participate in programs, etc. when you're not thinking about getting your $20 worth out of the experience. (FWIW, I'm now working on a Ph.D. in art history in an area of art that's especially well-represented in the CMA's collections - my path here has been a convoluted one, but I have some really vivid memories of encountering those works in what were then the basement galleries at the CMA.)

The Dallas Museum of art recently rolled out a free membership program that other art museums are watching with interest. I hope it's measurably successful, in the long run, at demonstrating that free admission is a good thing. In American art museums, at least, admission fees are a very small part of revenues - about 3 - 4%, maybe as high as 11 - 15% percent in institutions that aren't doing so well financially. It's the idea that admissions have to keep pace with the cost of other entertainment expenses, so that museum visits retain a kind of prestige, that often drives ticket prices. (That's a conversation I've actually overheard at more than one institution - "Well, we can't just GIVE it away!" or some version thereof.) I hope the DMA's program is the start of that idea's prompt demise.
posted by Austenite at 1:02 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is reminding me of reading about how Wendy Wasserstein used to take kids to see plays. (RIP Wendy.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:27 PM on April 7, 2014


Hrm? I'm not trying to have any argument. I think it's pretty clear that my initial comment was not an avowed claim that 100.00% of New York City art museum works were made by now-deceased white people, but I am happy to reply to your question and confirm that most works in the Met's Asian collection were probably made by Asian people.
You can confirm that based on your own assumptions, or do you have some reason to believe that? I ask because years ago I did a little bit of research on the history of the Freer Gallery of Art, one of the Smithsonian's two Asian art museums, and that was founded to house the collection of Charles Lang Freer(1854-1919), a white-dude Detroit railroad baron who was a noted collector of Asian art. You don't have to now a lot about art history (and I certainly don't know much about art history) to know that lots of late-19th and early-20th century white people were interested in what they would have called "Oriental Art," and that interest coincided with the great moment of art museum building in the US. There are many things about that interest that look less-than-flattering to the collectors in retrospect, but it's not because they only cared about dead white artists.

At any rate, it's completely irrelevant, because if you had read the link that taz provided, you would see that this initiative isn't limited to establishment museums like the Met. It also includes the African Burialground Museum, the Asia Society, El Museo de Barrio, the Hispanic Society of America Museum, the Museum of the Chinese in America, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, etc., etc., etc.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:03 AM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


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