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IMA considering paid admission

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© 2013 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
  • Henri Matisse, "Young Woman at the Window, Sunset" (1921, oil on canvas) from Matisse, Life in Color
  • © 2013 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
On a Sunday this fall, my daughter and I took advantage of the Indianapolis Museum of Art's free general admission policy. For the first time - she's nine years old - she was really able to appreciate the museum. Instead of asking me every five minutes, "Why can't we go to the Children's Museum, daddy?" she seemed really interested. Excited even.

We started was at the Pont Aven School exhibition in the European Collection on the second floor. It shows a grouping of French artists - Gaugin, Emile Bernard, to name a couple - that Henri Matisse, just starting his career in the late 19th century, would have been familiar with. (The IMA's big-ticket exhibition Matisse: Life in Color, Masterworks from the Baltimore Museum of Art closes Jan. 12.) Then we followed the collection back in time, until we arrived at the Hieronymus Bosch painting "Christ In Limbo," painted in 1575, which was not, to say the least, Naomi's favorite in the collection.

As it turns out I found myself interviewing IMA CEO Charles Venable just a few days after my visit with my daughter, for a feature I was writing on the Matisse exhibit.

Then I told him about my trip there with my daughter. I asked Venable if I'd be able to continue taking Naomi there without having to pay a general admission fee (a significant expenditure for me at my income level). He said the question is being discussed at the highest levels in the museum.

A little background: the IMA had a free general admission policy from 1941 until 2006, when it instituted a $7.00 fee for nonmembers. In January 2007, the museum returned to a free general admission policy, with the exception of special exhibits, that remains in effect to this day.

At any rate, here's what Venable told me:

"I don't know what the outcome is going to be. But the board is definitely going to be doing a study and really taking stock of what does it mean to be free in a world where virtually everywhere else you go in Indianapolis to an institution, you pay - at the Children's Museum, the Eiteljorg, and on and on. What is the value of being free? Who actually takes advantage of that? Who wouldn't be able to afford a ticket otherwise? I think it's a wise decision on the part of the board at this moment in the history of the museum to take stock and really look at that. I don't quite know the timing. I don't know the outcome, but it's something that will be evaluated."

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