N.J. cultural institutions and state partner on discounts to residents on public benefits

Lucy The Elephant stands in Margate, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP Photo)

Lucy The Elephant stands in Margate, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP Photo)

Cultural institutions across New Jersey have begun offering discounts to residents on public assistance benefits as part of a new state program to ensure people of all income levels have access to the arts.

The Newark International Film Festival, the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, and the popular Jersey Shore attraction Lucy the Elephant are among those participating.

Linda Harrison, president of the Newark Museum, which is offering free admission to people on public benefits through the program, said she thinks all residents should have the opportunity to enjoy organizations like hers.

“I totally believe that art and culture contribute to your life like food and shelter,” Harrison said.

Residents receiving state benefits through SNAP, WFNJ, Child Care Subsidy, and WIC are eligible for discounted or free admission at select cultural sites across the state.

The program, which is a collaboration among a number of state agencies including the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the New Jersey Historical Commission, will not use any public money to fund the discounts. Participating institutions offer cheaper rates voluntarily.

Secretary of State Tahesha Way said the so-called Families First Discovery Pass aims to encourage residents on public assistance to participate in the state’s cultural life.

“As Secretary of State, and also as a mom of four, I love sharing New Jersey’s rich history. And for our kids especially, we just want to make sure that all of our residents are able to access all of this great programming,” Way said. 

Way said staff members at the New Jersey State Council on the Arts heard about a similar program in Massachusetts and wanted to bring the idea to the Garden State.

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