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How does the IMA's new $18 general admission compare?



Adult general admission to the Midwest's top art museums

General Admission

Cincinnati Art Museum

Cleveland Museum of Art

Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

Des Moines Art Center

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Saint Louis Art Museum

Toledo Museum of Art

Brooks Memphis Museum of Art
$7, free Wednesdays, teachers free

Contemporary Arts Center (Cincinnati)
$7.50, free Wednesday nights

Detroit Institute of Arts
$8, locals free

Grand Rapids Art Museum
$8, free Tuesdays (all day) and Thursday nights

Hunter Museum of American Art (Chattanooga)
$9.95, free first Sundays

Frist Center for the Visual Arts (Nashville)
$10, under 18 free

Columbus Museum of Art
$12, free Sundays

Eiteljorg Museum
$12, Native Americans and IUPUI students and faculty free

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
$12 suggested, free Tuesdays, under 12 and military free

The Louvre
12 euros (about $13), all under 18 and Europeans under 25 free, unemployed free

Walker Art Center (Minneapolis)
$14, free Thursday nights and first Saturdays, under 18 free

Indianapolis Museum of Art
$18, first Thursdays free, some local college students free

Art Institute of Chicago
$23, locals $18, under 14 free

It has begun. Last week, the Indianapolis Museum of Art began charging for general admission to its "upper campus," which includes the museum, the surrounding gardens and Oldfields-Lilly House and Gardens. General admission runs $18 for adults and $10 for visitors ages 6 to 17. Children ages 5 and under are admitted free.

General admission was free to the museum from 1941 to 2006, when a $7 fee was instituted for non-members. But by January 2007, the museum had reverted to a free admission policy.

The museum is spinning this as a desirable switch from a la carte pricing to a single ticket that includes parking and access to special exhibitions. A press release announcing the policy claimed that "visitor research has shown that IMA guests do not like paying for parking and key programs like exhibitions separately." (But did that research indicate that they like paying for them together?)

There are plenty of exceptions: Students at four-year, public and non-profit Marion County colleges and universities are eligible for free memberships. The IMA will continue to participate in the state-wide Access Pass program, which offers $1 admission to qualifying low-income families. Admission will be free for all visitors on the first Thursday of the month from 4-9 p.m., as well as on Community Days (the next one is June 20, or the Summer Solstice) and on National Museum Day (May 19). Of course, admission is free for members. And access is free to areas that would be impossible or undesirable to police, including 100 Acres, the Sutphin Mall (home to LOVE) and the cafe and store.

Overnight, the IMA has become one of the priciest art museums in the Midwest. Only the Art Institute of Chicago is more expensive, though it offers discounts for Chicago ($18) and Illinois ($20) residents and admits visitors ages 14 and under free.

The Art Institute of Chicago holds approximately 300,000 works of art in its collection and welcomed 1,438,158 visitors in 2012, making it the 32nd most visited museum in the world. It's considered the country's second largest art museum in terms of square footage, behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. By contrast, the IMA's collection includes over 54,000 works of art and welcomed 384,030 visitors in 2013.

Yes, all museums are delicate snowflakes with unique economic situations. But we tend not to take into account such complex political factors when vacationing on a budget. Here then is a list of adult general admission at the Midwest's biggest art museums (including Kentucky and Tennessee), including any free days and substantial discounts for locals or youth. We left off museums undergoing extensive renovation. And we added The Louvre, just for fun.


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