The Contemporary Art Museum in Grand Center has joined the ranks of St. Louis’ free cultural institutions, at least through next summer.
CAM has charged no admission fee since early May, thanks to a donation by the local Gateway Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting art and urban design. Now Gateway has increased its funding to cover the five-dollar cost through August 2015.
The museum’s executive director Lisa Melandri expects free admission to draw more visitors, particularly those who are out exploring the area.
“Those people, I would think now that it’s free, [say] why not just go in, why not let curiosity guide you?” Melandri said.
'A new era'
The Contemporary and the Gateway Foundation are already partners in CAM's Great Rivers Biennial. Gateway supports the every-other-year exhibition and provides the money awarded to its three chosen artists.
Melandri called Gateway "extraordinary" for its contributions.
"They are a foundation that's extremely involved with accessibility and education and really making the arts available to St. Louis citizens," Melandri said.
Melandri said the museum has already seen an enthusiastic response from people stopping by.
“When the front desk staff tells them it’s free, they say, 'Ok, great, well, we’ll come in and we’ll try it,'” she said.
Not having to pay may also bring people in for repeat visits.
“If you’re interested in something or you like something, you’re going to go back and see it again because you don’t have this sense that there’s a ticket every time you enter,” Melandri said.
Melandri pointed out that St. Louis already has a number of other free cultural attractions including the Art Museum, History Museum, Zoo and Science Center. She hopes CAM can also make free admission a permanent policy. The Contemporary will look for other benefactors to underwrite the fee after funding from the Gateway Foundation runs out.
“I hope it’s the beginning of a new era at the museum,” Melandri said.
Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL