Daily News

Funded by Three-year Grant, Springfield Museums Announce Free First Wednesdays

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums have been awarded a three-year, $800,000 grant from the Art Bridges Foundation as part of a new Access for All initiative meant to help increase access to museums across the country.

Thanks to this funding, the Springfield Museums will introduce Free First Wednesdays beginning in January 2024. All visitors will receive free admission on the first Wednesday of every month for the next three years.

The Springfield Museums are one of just 64 museums in 36 states — and one of only seven in New England — to be awarded one of these prestigious grants. There are 33,000 museums in the U.S., according to the American Alliance of Museums.

“The remarkable and unprecedented $800,000 grant from this private foundation will enable our museums to realize our vision to be an accessible and intergenerational center of community learning and creativity,” said Kay Simpson, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums. “Our museums are committed to making art accessible through innovative interpretation and exciting and experiential exhibitions. This historic funding will help us be museums where everyone feels welcome.”

Based in Bentonville, Ark., the Art Bridges Foundation is a national arts nonprofit founded by philanthropist Alice Walton. With its $40 million investment in the Access for All initiative, the foundation hopes to eliminate barriers and encourage more people to visit and engage in more museums across the country.

“We are thrilled to launch Access for All, a historic partnership with cultural institutions across the country to make it easier for people in every U.S. region to see and experience art,” Walton said. “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are confident Access for All will not only help to rebuild museum attendance, but also bring more people than ever into museum galleries and reshape the arts world as one that is open to all.”

With many museums struggling to reach their pre-pandemic attendance, the new initiative aims to restore pre-pandemic levels and open opportunities for all people to enjoy American art by reducing barriers to access and strengthening community relationships.

Attendance at the Springfield Museums has been rising steadily over the past two years, and especially in 2023. From July through September of this year, attendance is just 4% below the same period in 2018.

“Our ever-increasing attendance numbers reflect our pledge to be visitor-centric and our institutional values to be museums without walls, where people come to engage, connect, and be inspired,” Simpson said. “Art Bridges funding will support and elevate this all-important work in ways never before possible.”