You want me to pay what?


The Chicago Sun Times ran an article today about the proposed admission price hike at the Art Institute of Chicago. With regular admission going up by 50% (from $12 to $18) and student and senior pricing seeing a whopping 71% increase (from $7 to $12), the AIC is clearly not taking the gradual approach to these changes.

Museums are feeling the pinch in these tough economic times. Furthermore, the Art Institute is just about to open their new Modern Wing, which means they have even more costs to cover than they did in the past. Since deaccessioning is out of the question (for an art museum, keeping the collection together is a top priority), they have to find ways to increase their earned revenue. Obviously, if it is down to raise prices or shut down, then by all means raise the prices. However, in saying that, one wonders if the Art Institute has undergone other changes that would require a less steep price increase. Have they made appropriate staff cuts? (I know, being a museum employee I am just as scared of losing my job as everyone else, but institutions in trouble need to trim the fat sometimes. Museums are just as guilty of carrying around superfluous staff as other organizations.) Have they explored other ideas for bringing in revenue? (i.e. specialized memberships, new partnerships, all those other out-of-the-box ideas people are throwing around these days). Have they expanded their donor base by looking at and trying to cultivate new audiences? I would feel more comfortable, and I imagine other Chicagoans would as well, if we knew that the Art Institute had taken these steps before putting a sudden and hefty price burden on the visitor (because visitors are feeling the pinch as well.)

In the end though, the Art Institute does offer free times every week and are required to continue providing a certain amount of free days each year thanks to their membership in Museums in the Park. So, there are plenty of chances to see the art at no cost. Furthermore, a one-time membership purchase means free admission all year, and with the raised prices memberships become an even greater value to both the frequent and semi-frequent visitor. So, while the increases are steep and sudden, it doesn’t mean the end of art appreciation here in Chicago.

In the long run, I think it is important to note that visitors will continue to come if they feel the museum is thinking about us just as much as they are thinking of themselves.

One Response to “You want me to pay what?”

  1. Someone Forgot to Pay the Water Bill : Museumist on March 18th, 2009

    […] week, I was one of several bloggers who wrote about the proposed admissions hike at the Art Institute of […]

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