Home Museum institution Free for All, Forever at the Allentown Art Museum – The Morning Call

Free for All, Forever at the Allentown Art Museum – The Morning Call


Starting August 27, the Allentown Art Museum will no longer charge for admission.

Thanks to a transformative legacy gift from the Century Fund, the extraordinary generosity of the Lehigh Valley Health Network, along with downtown Allentown and JB and Kathleen Reilly, we are able to take this momentous step in our efforts. to remove barriers to entry and ensure that all members of our community have access to the Museum and its educational programming, in perpetuity.

For me, one of the things about the Allentown Art Museum is how its history is rooted in the idea of ​​community. Walter Emerson Baum and other civic-minded leaders founded the Museum in the depths of the Great Depression because they believed it was important to ensure public access to our artistic and cultural heritage.

A few decades later, businessman and son of the country, Samuel H. Kress, gifted dozens of Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces to the museum, motivated by the same conviction as those masterpieces. work belonged to the public trust and should always be accessible.

As stewards of the Museum today, it is humbling to be able to build on this legacy by ensuring that art remains free for all, forever. I think it’s fair to say that August 27 will be one of the most important milestones in the Museum’s nearly 90-year history toward realizing the ideals on which it was founded.

For too many people in our community, the cost of admission to an engaging cultural experience – like a visit to an art museum – can be a real barrier, especially for families. More than a quarter of Allentown households live below the poverty line, so removing the financial barrier to museum access is really a matter of equity. By waiving admission fees permanently, I hope everyone will now have the opportunity to experience the Museum’s world-class art collection and educational programming, and that the Museum can truly become a resource for all.

August 27 will also mark another milestone: the opening of the New American Galleries.

Since the beginning of the summer, several galleries on the ground floor of the Museum have been closed for renovation. This renovation marks the first major changes to the Museum’s permanent collection galleries in more than a decade. When they open Aug. 27, the New American Galleries will showcase recent acquisitions — including new works by local artists that have never been exhibited — and showcase artists from African American, Afro-Latin, Latina, from Central and South America, indigenous people and women. in the galleries to a degree never seen before.

Additionally, a third of the 148 works on display will be changed every six months, ensuring the galleries remain vibrant spaces of discovery and learning, and all wall labels and other interpretive text will be bilingual in Spanish and English.

In short, this relocation will present a more diverse and inclusive narrative and allow us to better tell the complex and inherently diverse history of American art. To achieve this, the Museum’s curatorial department worked with local artists, community leaders and other stakeholders to gather feedback on the artworks for display and to help refine key themes and strategies for reinterpretation of the work.

The goal is to help ensure that our audience can experience art in a way that is relevant and meaningful to their lives.

In addition to major changes to the museum’s admissions policy and new American galleries, we are continually working to improve access and enrich the overall visitor experience in small but significant ways. We recently quadrupled the number of free parking spaces available to Museum visitors, and this fall we will introduce Sensory Hours so that neurodivergent members of the community and their families have time each month to enjoy the Museum’s collection. when the galleries are less crowded and when noise and light levels are reduced.

These recent changes and those to come are only possible with your support. Of course, we are able to offer free admission to all thanks to the Century Fund, Lehigh Valley Health Network, City Center Allentown and JB and Kathleen Reilly. But free is not the end of the Museum’s efforts to serve our community. On the contrary, this is only the beginning. We continue to strive to make the museum a more accessible institution for the more than 60,000 visitors who pass through the Museum’s doors each year.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve as President and CEO of the Art Museum as we undertake some of the most significant changes in our history. With your support, we can continue to provide dynamic exhibits and timely and relevant educational programming so that we can remain a vital cultural resource in the Lehigh Valley.

Max Weintraub is President and CEO of the Allentown Museum of Art