Museums for All offers affordable entry to Columbus sights

Cindy Foley describes museums as “wonder factories”.

“These are places where our curiosity is aroused and they are places to see the world through new eyes,” said Foley, the Scantland Family Executive Assistant Director of Learning, Experience, and Engagement at the Columbus Museum of Art. “We can imagine things not as they are, but as they could be.”

Now, thanks to a program called Museums for alla nationwide initiative that began in Washington, DC, at the Institute for Museums and Library Services, there is a way to make “Wonder Factories” affordable for everyone.

Six major Columbus museums are part of the Museums for All initiative, now in its second year: Columbus Art Museum, Science and Industry Center, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, National Veterans Museum and Memorial, Ohio History Center and Ohio Village and Wexner Center for the Arts.

Each museum offers admission discounts to SNAP recipients ranging from free to $3.45 per person. Tickets are different at each location, so check each website for specific pricing details.

Young people enjoyed the recent "The Science of Big Machines" event at COSI, part of the Museums for All initiative.

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Museum passes for everyone available

Discounted museum access can also come from a Museums for All card instead of providing a SNAP card.

“We have the Museums For All card, which removes all the stigma of having to show your service card,” Foley said. “It simplifies the process. It’s a card given to you because you qualify and you can just show it at a desk in one of the museums.”

The reduced prices allow those who wouldn’t normally think of going there, a chance to see the museums Foley raves about.

“I think we need spaces that cultivate that kind of thinking and connection. You’re connected to the world in a different way,” Foley said. “We work hard to be spaces that can provide some level of imagination but also grounded in what can change and what progress looks like.”

The Ohio Village is located on the Ohio History Connection campus at 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus.  The history center participates in the Museums for All program.

Collaboration, creating an open invitation is essential to the success of the program

Collaboration has been key to the success of the Museums for All program in Columbus.

As the six museums came together to become a hub city, Foley said they realized there was more to the museum program and attendance than cost. The community should feel welcome in the museum and for some it is not, she says.

“The biggest problem isn’t always financial, it can be psychological. They don’t see museum space for them,” Foley said.

Fighting it wasn’t just about sending an email or a Facebook post promoting the program. Foley said everyone involved knew they had to get involved with community organizations that people trusted.

One of them was the Middle Ohio Food Collective. This helped change everything for the program.

The Mid-Ohio Food Collective is Ohio’s largest food bank, but also does a lot of other work for communities. It hosts community resource fairs that include opportunities to speak with various nonprofits or human resource organizations to find ways to support each other.

Although community resource fairs are normally held in parking lots, the Mid-Ohio Food Collective came up with the idea of ​​bringing the fairs to museums. They held two, one last fall and one in the spring, at the Columbus Museum of Art. The next one, from 3 to 7 p.m. on August 19, will be at the Ohio History Connection.

“Not only are they connecting with the HR organizations they need and know, but they’re also getting to know us,” Foley said. “We go from museum to museum. … What has been fantastic is that we had 400 (people) in the spring.”

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And the benefits of the program continue to grow.

A year after the start of the Museums For All program, it has collaborated with other organizations such as the Central Ohio Charitable Pharmacy. The organization provides affordable pharmaceutical services and coordinates access to health care for people. He also started giving people a Museums for All card every time they had a prescription filled.

“That’s the cool part — how we partner with these social service agencies that help us distribute the cards to their community,” Foley said.

As the program enters the summer, giving people a chance to get in, avoid the heat, but also have something to do, Foley knows Museums for All continues to be a vital link to the community.

Cameron TeagueRobinson [email protected]; Twitter: @cj_teague

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