As local entertainment options go, a trip to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery remains one of the better bargains on the market. Its admission fees of $6 to $12 will set you back far less, for example, than a family outing to the movies.
Even so, admission remains a major barrier to gallery attendance for those with little disposable income -- a major concern in one of the poorest cities in the United States.
While a few American museums have eliminated admission entirely, most take a piecemeal approach to opening access on certain days or for particular populations. The Albright-Knox is one.
"We constantly seek to share the wonders of the Albright-Knox with everyone in Western New York," Albright-Knox Education Curator Jennifer Foley said in a statement. "These programs allow us to provide new pathways for all to have the opportunity to experience the museum in fun, new and exciting ways.”
Here's a look a the free (or cheap) options for those who want to check out the gallery's collection without taking a big financial hit:
• On March 12, the gallery will launch a monthly discount program for families on the second Sunday of each month. A cool $5 will grant an entire family admission to the gallery and access to special programming created to appeal to kids. This week's events include a storytelling and art workshop for kids aged 3 to 6 at 10:30 a.m., a family tour at 11 a.m., a family art activity based on the gallery's exhibition "Menagerie: Animals on View" at 1 p.m. and another art activity based on artist Shantell Martin's work at 2 p.m.
• The gallery's longstanding M&T First Fridays event, with free admission and an array of additional programming, continues on every first Friday of the month. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on First Fridays, and also offers free parking to visitors during that time. The next one, on April 7, includes talks from artists Eric Mack, Jacob Kassay, Tamar Guimaraes, Kasper Akhoj and Shantell Martin.
• From March 25 to April 1, admission to the gallery will be free for everyone as part of Erie County Free Week, an initiative designed to broaden access to cultural institutions throughout the county.
• On International Museum Day, planned for May 18, Western New Yorkers will also have free access to the Albright-Knox and many other local institutions.
• Military veterans get free access to the gallery on the first Saturday of every month from 2 to 4 p.m. And, as part of the national Blue Star Museums program, active duty military personnel get free admission year-round.
• Members of the Arts Services Initiative's Arts Access Program -- designed to open the doors of the city's arts organizations to Western New Yorkers on public assistance -- also have free access to the Albright-Knox at any time.