The Philadelphia Art Museum is now the only major museum in the country to offer free lifetime membership to artists with work in its collection — and discounted memberships to any working artist.
Most museums offer no discount at all to artists. Some — including the Whitney Museum in New York — offer free membership to artists in its collection. Others — such as New York’s Museum of Modern Art — offer discounted memberships for practicing artists.
To launch its one-of-a-kind the program, the Philadelphia museum invited artists in the area to assemble for a group photo. About 80 came, including Shelley Spector. The museum acquired a print of hers in 2006, and gave her a solo exhibition last year.
“I always have a membership,” said Spector. “Now it means that if I come to a year when I can’t afford it, I still have one.”
Artists need to be recognized as the “heart and soul” of any museum, said CEO Timothy Rub.
“The museum should always be accessible to them because they draw inspiration from our collections and, in turn, help us to inspire others,” said Rub.
Artist James Dupree, who has five works in the collection, used to visit a lot when he was teaching, bringing students with him.
“Membership is exciting,” he said. “It gives artists in the collection the ability to come see their works when they are hung, and to come to all the events. We’re going to bring people with us.”
The museum is offering working artists an annual membership for $40 (normally $75). Artists must prove they are showing their work publicly, even if only via Facebook or Etsy.