Museum Culture Vultures
Squeeze Senior Citizens
Oddly, this pricing policy runs counter to that at many art institutions from coast to coast -- and in Europe -- that are increasingly understanding that quick hits at the turnstile don't add up to long-range profit, nor, as important, good will. In England, national museums are free. In France, deep discounts are offered to seniors. The same in Israel.
The PMA, when hiking its general admission fee last year from $14 to $16, also, in a particularly Scrooge-like move, reduced its pay-what-wish Sundays, from every Sunday to once a month. PAFA dropped its free Sundays entirely.
Thankfully, three major Philadelphia museums have adhered to free admissions, the Woodmere Museum in Chestnut Hill, the LaSalle University Art Museum, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum. (The Penn Museum recommends a suggested donation. In other words, pay what you want).
These Philly museums, and others around the world, understand that free-will offerings improve the bottom line in non-intuitive ways. More people means more spending in museums stores. At the PMA, more people also means more people parking in its lucratively income-producing parking garage. And lastly, of course, free admissions bring great art to all the people -- despite their incomes.
The PMA, one of the world's great museums, has yet another reason to adopt a free-will offering as its business model -- a legal one. This, especially, since the PMA is often scolded as a habitat for the bourgeoisie, for the haves and the have mores.
The legal issue? We -- the citizens of Philadelphia -- own the building that houses the PMA.
A similar founding charter governs the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Thus, the reason that the Met is free -- well, almost. Pay what you wish, but at least a penny.
The PMA hasn't been held to the Met's example. This, despite millions being poured in to the museum's coffers annually by a half dozen taxpayer-funded agencies.
At the PMA, at least, don't expect any free-will offering anytime soon. True, Timothy Rub, the museum's director, inaugurated a free admission when he served at the Cleveland Museum of Art. But so far, unless you're a member, that will be $16 per visit. Oh yeah, $14 if you're a senior.