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Top 5 Reasons Why the Admission Price Hike at the Art Institute is OK

Because I've already seen, and fallen in love with, the Modern Wing, I'm going to take the museum's side on this one. If you want to hear people complain, just search the Web or  watch Alderman Ed Burke waste tons of time and tax dollars trying to mandate free days, rather than fight the corruption that has the city in a chokehold. So the next time you pay an 10% extra to the county - which is every day, on every item you buy - ask who's fleecing you.

But I digress.

Here are the Top 5, cold hard facts that justify the Art Institute's price increase:

5. They have always, systematically, periodically, raised the admission rate.  They were scheduled to raise the rate five years ago, but didn't. The reason they held off was because the new Modern Wing was in the works, and they reinstalled the entire collection in the entire museum, which meant that periodically they had to close some of the galleries. It felt silly to do a price hike in conjunction with limited exhibition space, and their crystal ball never told them a recession was coming.

4. You are getting more museum for your buck. When you think new "wing", you may think of a delicate bird wing. Well, think thigh. It's not really a wing as much as it's a gimungous building. The new wing alone is bigger than the MCA. It increases the size of the museum by 1/3, making it the second biggest art museum in the nation.  And because they could move all their modern stuff out of the "old" part, every other section now has more stuff, generally each collection is a minimum of 10% bigger. Some collections have increased eight-fold.

3. Do the math.

New Wing = c. $300 million in private donations,

divided by 266,000 square feet,

equals > $1 million per square foot.

Museums are just inherently expensive to build and maintain. They're not like AMC Theatres with sticky floors.

2. Still free times and more free areas: 

Free areas:

  • The North and South gardens
  • The new sculpture terrace on the third floor of the Modern Wing
  • The new Ryan Education Center in the Modern Wing and all programs for families and children within the Center
  • Large windows in the exhibit space allow an amazing view from Millenium Park . The Art Institute purposely installslarge sculputral objects that can be enjoyed from across the street.


free times:


  • One late evening per week (Thursdays after 5:00 p.m.) throughout the year
  • Two late evenings per week (Thursdays and Fridays after 5:00 p.m.) during the summer (Memorial Day to Labor Day)
  • The entire month of February


1. The museum is free the week of the opening of the Modern Wing - from May 16 to May 22, so go soon and quit complaining. When you see it, you'll realize what a huge boost this in for art in Chicago.

Posted by Kathryn Born on 5/11/09 | tags: Art-Institute-Price-Increase admission fees

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