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Sun Dec 2, 2012, 09:10 AM

Dallas Museum makes art free for all

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/30/dallas-museum-art-free-for-all


Jason Farago: 'hen parents can take their children without having to budget for it, the museum takes on a societal function.' Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty

Texas has been getting some bad press lately, what with its boneheaded governor and Obamaphobic secession petition. So it was good to be reminded this week that the Lone Star State is still a cultural force to be reckoned with. The Dallas Museum of Art, one of the leading lights in a region with excellent arts institutions, is dropping its $10 admission fee and throwing the doors open to all comers starting in January. Admission to small or more scholarly temporary exhibitions will also cost nothing. Only big shows will require paid tickets, and these will have variable pricing.

It's great news. For a long two decades, museums strove to outdo one another with outlandish architecture and blockbuster exhibitions, pumping up admissions costs along the way. But the last few years have seen a welcome shift, especially in cities and neighborhoods beyond the international art circuit. One of the country's most beautiful museums, the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City, has been free for a while now. Baltimore's two major museums went free in 2006. St Louis and Indianapolis recently joined the roster of free institutions; as did the Bronx Museum of Art, which went free this spring.

And a free museum a truly free one, not just one where you can beat the admission price at a certain hour by standing in line is a totally different beast from one you have to pay to visit. When you can slip into a gallery for just 15 minutes to see a favorite painting, or when parents can take their children without having to budget for it, the museum takes on a societal function.

It's no longer just a fortress or an amusement: it's a civic platform, where education and citizenship go hand in hand. People begin to value their museums in ways they don't when you have to pay so much so that the current British government, while gleefully slashing everything else in sight, can't bring itself to reintroduce admissions charges to national museums.

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Arrow 34 replies Author Time Post
Reply Dallas Museum makes art free for all (Original post)
xchrom Dec 2012 OP
frazzled Dec 2012 #1
CTyankee Dec 2012 #2
justabob Dec 2012 #8
CTyankee Dec 2012 #11
justabob Dec 2012 #13
CTyankee Dec 2012 #14
justabob Dec 2012 #15
CTyankee Dec 2012 #16
justabob Dec 2012 #19
CTyankee Dec 2012 #24
justabob Dec 2012 #26
CTyankee Dec 2012 #27
X_Digger Dec 2012 #31
justabob Dec 2012 #34
jsr Dec 2012 #9
CTyankee Dec 2012 #12
tammywammy Dec 2012 #3
frazzled Dec 2012 #4
woo me with science Dec 2012 #7
Honeycombe8 Dec 2012 #18
frazzled Dec 2012 #22
woo me with science Dec 2012 #33
tammywammy Dec 2012 #23
woo me with science Dec 2012 #5
xchrom Dec 2012 #6
dballance Dec 2012 #10
Honeycombe8 Dec 2012 #17
justabob Dec 2012 #21
Honeycombe8 Dec 2012 #29
tammywammy Dec 2012 #25
CrawlingChaos Dec 2012 #20
Honeycombe8 Dec 2012 #32
benld74 Dec 2012 #28
Aristus Dec 2012 #30

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:02 AM

1. That's great, but even with admission, a museum is a pretty good deal

compared to other "entertainments" people indulge in. A $15 or $20 fee to spend a whole day at a museum is cheaper than most sporting event tickets, definitely way cheaper than a day at Disneyland or Legoland or SeaWorld, cheaper by far than a ticket to a rock concert, etc.

The Metropolitan Museum in New York has probably the highest admission fee in the country ($25, though that is only "recommended"; you can pay what you want) ... and the lines to get in are always out the door. Same for the Art Institute of Chicago, and other places.

I still think it's great if they can return to the no admission price policy, though. I wonder who or what is financing that reduction? Because museums are extremely expensive to run: not just with salaries for staff like curators and guards, but conservation of the artwork, climate control, insurance, shipping costs for exhibitions (huge), building maintenance and utilities, etc.

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Response to frazzled (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:10 AM

2. I notice that when I am in museums in Europe I see young families with a couple of kids

walking around. A family outing. It's just what you DO. Regular thing. And I never hear the kids whining and complaining.

By doing this, Dallas is really stepping up. I was born and raised in Dallas and never returned there to live after I went off to college in the Northeast. But over the years I have learned of the cultural improvement of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Both cities have venerable art museums. And I know in my old neighborhood there is a vibrant gay population and it makes me very happy.

I still would not live there since I would be unhappy in a red state. But a big shout-out to Dallas for doing an important thing to improve the cultural ambiance of its city...

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Response to CTyankee (Reply #2)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:26 AM

8. a ton of investment in arts happening here

During the last several years the northeast side of downtown has been under construction, all arts related buildings. It is mostly performing arts venues and theaters, along with new housing development, and even more is coming. They just finished building a big park over a section of highway right there too. Our zoo has had a major overhaul. (It hadn't changed since the first time I went there as a child, literally.) The Perot Natural History Museum opened yesterday. It is impressive. Dallas is finally catching up with our neighbor, Ft Worth.

ps. I live in (or very close to) that neighborhood you mentioned. I love my part of town.

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Response to justabob (Reply #8)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 01:26 PM

11. I have to smile. Back when I was growing up there Ft. Worth was dissed and called Cow Town.

The Kimbell is a helluva museum! I read about their offerings in the New York Times when they do their big museum section listing exhibits/shows all over the world...

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Response to CTyankee (Reply #11)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 03:03 PM

13. yes, the Kimbell was, and still is, great

plus there is the relatively new MOMA Ft Worth right next door. Cow Town or not, Ft Worth has had enormous amounts of money for various arts via the Bass family for a very long time. The juxtaposition of the stockyards and the other cultural offerings in Ft Worth is, and has always been (to me), a little strange and jarring. The zoo and botanical gardens still put Dallas to shame, even with the good and much needed improvements in Dallas' facilities. I am glad the people and city of Dallas are finally getting it.

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Response to justabob (Reply #13)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 03:16 PM

14. well, the feeling was mutual. I used to hear about it when I was growing up.

But I do wonder why it took Dallas so long. There were always some people with very fine taste in Highland Park. You'd think they would demand better cultural offerings from their own city...

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Response to CTyankee (Reply #14)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 03:35 PM

15. oh me too!

On the Park Cities.... there are cosmopolitan people with taste, and education and all the rest of it, but I never felt like they were the majority. Lots of self important people playing at being "elite" in The Bubble. Dallas' upper crust, particularly the HP segment, is a parody of the old east coast cities' upper crusts, but I think we have benefited a lot from all the transplants that continue to flood into the metroplex from all over.

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Response to justabob (Reply #15)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 04:16 PM

16. Well the people with taste who are often the style setters tend not to be in the majority in

Dallas, or at least they weren't when I was growing up there in the 50s. Tell me if I am wrong but it seems like they got some help with the infusion of art conscious people there, such as the growing gay community. Perhaps it had to do with what kinds of jobs the economy there favored.

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Response to CTyankee (Reply #16)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 04:36 PM

19. I don't know

I grew up in the 70s-80s and we were (and are) still fairly provincial compared to other cities in Texas. My guess as to what is behind our little cultural revolution is the transplants. The gay community has always been here (my lifetime). I don't know if it is still true, but back in the 80s, Dallas had the largest (or one of the largest) gay population in the country. We had a huge wave of people from California in the 80s-90s too (continuing now) plus people from everywhere else since then. I know more people from elsewhere than I do natives. Another possibility is that all that "new" money from cotton, cattle, and oil has grown up some and seen the need for culture.

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Response to justabob (Reply #19)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 05:43 PM

24. You talk about other cities in Texas being less provincial. I am guessing you mean Austin and

San Antonio. Am I right?

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Response to CTyankee (Reply #24)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 07:20 PM

26. provincial may not be exactly the right word

but yes, Houston, Austin and San Antonio are all more cosmopolitan than Dallas IMHO.... more enlightened, open minded, accepting, interested in the world outside our area codes? I am having a really hard time getting my idea out... sorry.

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Response to justabob (Reply #26)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 07:25 PM

27. Houston...that's interesting. I don't know that much about Houston...but I have relatives in

both Dallas and Austin. My uncle was a state senator (from Brownwood, TX) in the TX state lege way back in the 40s and then a judge. His claim to fame was his advocacy of paving highways for Texas. I remember as a kid going to OK for some reason and the paved highway stopping at the state line. OK had dirt roads from there on...ack!

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Response to justabob (Reply #26)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:54 PM

31. Dallas is where people work, for the most part.

It's a ghost town after 9pm, or it was the last time I was at the Dallas world aquarium.

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Response to X_Digger (Reply #31)

Mon Dec 3, 2012, 08:41 AM

34. not so much anymore

You are right though, that was true until very recently, and that is a component of what I am trying to say about Dallas. It isn't like other cities. DFW is so spread out, growth has always been horizontal. I mean that we keep expanding outward instead of vertically like other cities have had to do for geographic and other reasons, and a lot of people don't leave their zip codes/immediate neighborhoods for anything besides work and maybe sporting events. It has only been in the last few years that we've started going vertical, people living in highrises downtown and more "mixed-use" development with apartments/townhouses sharing buildings with retail and restaurants in planned, pedestrian friendly neighborhoods in the city center.

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Response to CTyankee (Reply #2)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:30 AM

9. Fort Worth has an incredible museum district

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Response to jsr (Reply #9)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 01:29 PM

12. Yes, I've read about it. And the guy who does my retirement planning lives there and his kids are

very active in the arts.

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Response to frazzled (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:24 AM

3. It's probably only a 2% reduction in revenue.

The article also points out that increased foot traffic would lead to an increase in donations from wealthy Dallasites. Also, they're still going to charge admission for some exhibits.

http://artsblog.dallasnews.com/2012/11/dallas-museum-of-art-takes-bold-step-of-offering-free-general-admission-and-free-memberships.html/

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Response to tammywammy (Reply #3)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:43 AM

4. There is a devil's bargain, however

First, the donations often come from corporate sponsors: you know, the Targets and the Exxons. And even if it's from wealthy individual patrons, there's a danger to be had: they can leverage the types of exhibitions museums put on, and even acquisitions that are made, which can at times be a conflict of interest if it helps to enhance the value of works or artists these donors own. You have to realize that art, and especially contemporary art, is big business for collectors: a huge investment scheme for many ultra-wealthy people. There can also be censorship issues over socially or politically difficult works. Even if these pressures are not explicit, they can be subtly implicit. I'm not saying that a strong museum administration can't take a forceful stand against such interference, but (as someone who has been connected to museums) I can tell you it's always an issue (and a temptation). I'd be happier if it were government money, as in Europe ... but with a strong firewall against any kind of censorship or influence.

Second, there can (potentially) be a downside to free admission. Namely, it can "devalue" the appeal, because, you know, free stuff is always there and if it's so great why is it free? (I'm just putting forth a devil's advocate argument here).

Most museums have always had free days, where those who cannot afford it can enter for free. But I think it's always good for museums to at least sell memberships, because then people have skin in the game, and develop a loyalty and deeper interest in the institution. And that helps to offset all the corporate and donor influence.

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Response to frazzled (Reply #4)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:25 AM

7. Playing devil's advocate to your devil's advocate.

Last edited Sun Dec 2, 2012, 12:19 PM - Edit history (4)

You make some important points...The government status of the Smithsonian seems to be exactly what you would highlight here.

But as for being devalued because of being free...that is exactly the opposite of my experience. Because the museums at the Smithsonian were free and we could wander into them at will, running up and down the mall to go to Air and Space, and then Natural History, and then American History and the Hirshhorn, we really felt of them as our own, even as children. There was an intimacy and connectedness to the whole place that made us feel that we could accomplish any of the wonderful things we saw there... that they were all ours and part of us. The free access mader us feel a part of them; we were protective of them and valued them much more highly as a result.

By contrast, what I remember most about my first trip to a museum in another city is being behind a rope while we paid for tickets and then going quietly and submissively through the halls as a guest. It all felt more removed and outside of our access, unless someone else deigned to allow us to come in, and we knew we would be evicted at the end of the tour. The feeling was more of being permitted, for a fee, to peek into the magnificent things other people have and do, without any real sense that we could ever be a part of it.

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Response to frazzled (Reply #4)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 04:28 PM

18. It's a business decision. Better to charge 0 and make $ on concessions than charge $ bt no one comes

No one goes to the DMA. It's doesn't have interesting or exciting art work. It has the same standard metal sculpture stuff outside that you see everywhere in big cities in America.

I went once over a decade ago. It was so boring that I never entertained the thought of going back. And I work near it, so that I could walk to it in a few minutes on my lunch hour. But I can't think of a more boring lunch hour to go to the DMA and look at those big red awful metal things they call sculpture. There are more of them in front of office buildings elsewhere downtown...they are so common.

In Los Colinas (another area outside of town), there are sculptures of running horses in front of an office building. In NY, there are sculptures of bulls on Wall Street. On the way to downtown Dallas, I pass by sculptures of some cows sitting in a field (with advertisements on the sides, of course). But at the DMA, the same ol' same ol' metal thingies they call sculptures. Inside are more senseless and boring metal sculptures.

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Response to Honeycombe8 (Reply #18)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 05:11 PM

22. Oh, c'mon, they have an excellent collection

I think if they have a problem, it's because no one goes downtown except for work, and because (dare I say it) perhaps Dallasers (is that the term?) are not very interested in art.

Ask why they can pack a stadium for a Cowboy's game, but can't get enough people to come to see an art exhibition. It ain't because of the price. (The admission price was only $10 ($7 for seniors)).

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Response to frazzled (Reply #22)

Mon Dec 3, 2012, 12:08 AM

33. Ten dollars is a lot. It would have prevented my friends and me from going.

If you are going with someone, that is 20 out of your wallet right there. Add the rest of your family, or neighbors, or a group of kids, and you are looking at a small fortune. Plus, art museums are places you don't go just once. People need to be able to come back again and again, because you never see all you want/need to see in one visit.

Art/history in museums should belong to the people. It should be available to them, like books at libraries. Having experienced both paid and free museums, I can't express strongly enough what it meant to me to have museums where I could just "drop in" at will during my childhood and teen years, without worrying about money. I probably would never have become interested in art if I had had the barrier of a ten dollar fee standing in my way to get in each time. I certainly would not have become a regular visitor on my own.

Free museums are a public good. Let them make money on the gift shops and concessions.

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Response to Honeycombe8 (Reply #18)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 05:14 PM

23. Las Colinas. n/t

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:01 AM

5. This is wonderful.

I grew up going for free to the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo. I'll never forget how taken aback I was the first time I went to a museum out of town and they demanded MONEY to get in!

It just felt WRONG.

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Response to woo me with science (Reply #5)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:03 AM

6. i think it's excellent as well. nt

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:52 AM

10. That's Great Dallas! The free museums on the DC Mall are one of my favorite things about DC /eom

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 04:20 PM

17. I'm in Dallas. I never go to the DMA. It doesn't have good stuff.

It's all modern hard metal sculpture (yuk----and oh so common these days) or modern art work (abstracts and other oh-so-common yuk value). Except for the occasional special exhibition...but those are rare.

They are probably ending their admission (I didn't know they had one...I went once years ago and it was free then) because no one will pay to go there.

They will make money on concessions and stuff. There are a couple of cafes there (overpriced, natch).

If you want a REAL museum experience, you have to go to Fort Worth's Kimball Museum. That's the museum that gets the great traveling exhibitions, has real art work that people want to see, etc.

I will say that the DMA has one good thing: Its van that runs around town is hippie-style painted mod colors, and on the back is lettered Go Van Gogh!.

Here ya go. What would you pay to see the following:

Sculptures (not the columns):


Art work (Yes, that is a picture):



More art work (yes, like the above-referenced art work):


More sculptures!:



BUT, here is the one exhibition that would interest me (I might walk over on my lunch hour to see this: Toulouse La'trec and contemporaries of his):



COMPARE WITH THE KIMBALL ART MUSEUM IN FORT WORTH:

Real artifacts from the ancient world:


Art work example (you, like, can actually tell what was painted):


Sculptures where you know what was being sculpted (some are ancient sculptures):


Now THAT'S a museum.

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Response to Honeycombe8 (Reply #17)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 04:41 PM

21. Go Van Gogh

is their outreach to students. The van goes for art activities at schools. It is a good thing.

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Response to justabob (Reply #21)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:50 PM

29. I love that van. I've seen it around town for years. :) nt

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Response to Honeycombe8 (Reply #17)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 06:55 PM

25. I think you need to go to the DMA again

It's not all metal artwork. I'm particularly fond of their Asian collection.

http://dma.org: 9090/emuseum/objects/viewcollections/Objects?t:state:flow=cd77481e-8f49-4dad-87c1-f57ca8ae5961


Remove the space between the : and 9 for the link to work.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 04:40 PM

20. Socialists!

Just kidding - this is fantastic. All museums should be free. Art is one of the things that could help pull our woefully dumbed down society back from the brink, and access should be as unrestricted as possible. One of the rare occasions I get to use the words, GO DALLAS!

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Response to CrawlingChaos (Reply #20)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:54 PM

32. Yes. Like libraries. It allows everyone to get exposure to art in person. nt

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 09:12 PM

28. Art Museum in STL has NEVER charged admission. Our Zoo is free as well.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:54 PM

30. That's wonderful.

Art should be for everyone.

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