Sunday, July 18, 2010

No thank you, Art Institute

July 19, 2010

Ms. Amy Katherine Radick
Membership Director
Art Institute of Chicago
111 S Michigan Ave
Chicago IL 60603

Dear Ms. Radick:

Thank you for your written invitation to join the Art Institute. The letter and accompanying brochure make a very impressive presentation, and the discount certainly makes the offer an attractive one. Unfortunately, I must decline the invitation at this time.

The reason for my refusal is what I consider to be the Art Institute’s outrageous admission price increase last year. The Art Institute no longer allows low- or fixed-income guests to pay what they wish, and special exhibits are now restricted to members during free admission periods. While the Art Institute is cutting itself off from those who can least afford it, it inhales hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funding annually. Regardless of whether we visit the Art Institute or not, taxpayers in Chicago, in Illinois, and all across the country are “friends” of the museum.

How much would admission cost if the Art Institute refused public funding? In that case, major donors, members and visitors would be solely responsible for the Art Institute’s revenue—as it should be. In that case, admission prices and the CEO’s salary would not be public issues.

I realizes there is no admission fee on Thursday evenings (thanks to corporate sponsorship), and there is one free week in February. It is still very difficult for most families to visit during these times. Instead of the library admission card program, with its limited availability, I would suggest that each Chicago family be permitted one complimentary visit per calendar year. Sure, you could black out winter and spring break to control crowds. The people who unwittingly underwrite the Art Institute’s budget should have the chance to enjoy it.

Thank you again for your invitation. I will continue to visit the Art Institute on Thursday evenings.


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