Deemed a success, Arts Pass to keep Chicago cheap

The popular Arts Pass program has a new lease on life.

By Benjamin Pokross

One year and thousands of free admissions later, the University has officially declared its Arts Pass program a success.

Under the program, more than 6,000 students used their University of Chicago ID cards to gain free entry to the Art Institute of Chicago last year, while 800 swiped their way into the Museum of Contemporary Art.

“We’ve just started, but our sense is that [the reception] is very positive,” Director of the Logan Center for the Arts Bill Michel said.

The pass, which allows card-carrying U of C students to gain reduced price or free admission at participating organizations, will not change much, though the University is working toward partnerships with more diverse organizations, according to Leigh Fagin, an overseer of the initiative. The program has already expanded to include the Harris Theater and Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House.

In addition to institutions around the city, many faculty-led programs have been arranged this year under the aegis of the Arts Pass, with dozens of events listed on the program’s online calendar. The Oriental Institute arranged a visit last year to Trustee Harry Plotnik’s private collection of Islamic ceramics. About 20 Arts Pass events have already been planned for the year, according to Fagin.

Fagin said that she hopes to improve the program’s visibility.

“A lot of it is marketing,” said Fagin, who also serves as Program Coordinator for the Logan Center. “We’re trying to reach out to every student, across all the different groups of students.”

The Logan Center will place a kiosk in the Reynolds Club displaying fliers from student arts groups. “We’ve been going to RSO fairs, going through housing, and through list hosts, especially for graduate students,” Naiara Testai (A.B. ’10), a Metcalf Fellow at the Logan Arts Center, said.

Michel did not know the exact cost of the program, though he said the Center has secured funding from various sources, including alumni.

Fagin said she hopes the Arts Pass can help students experience all of Chicago’s offerings.

“We believe that not only should the arts be interjected into the lives of the students, but that, since we live in this great city, students should be able to take advantage of it,” she said.

—Additional reporting by Jonathan Lai