MOCA Sets Sights on Inclusion, Starting with Free Admission For All

MOCA Sets Sights on Inclusion, Starting with Free Admission For All
Photo via Scene Archives
The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a massive "Open House" initiative, the star of which is free admission for all.

“Free admission was my dream,” Jill Snyder, MOCA’s director since 1996, told “It lowers the barrier to participation, to entry, and is the right thing to do.” However, “free admission is a passive action,” she also noted. “It lowers a bar, but it doesn’t mean people feel they belong.”

The museum, which is currently closed and set to re-open March 16, raised $2.5 million overall to implement its anniversary initiatives.

Open House also aims to shift the museum's workforce to better reflect the community. LaTanya Autry of Yale University Art Gallery is set to come on as its diversity fellow, to help the museum "expand its audience."

The initiative includes replacing its work-study students with employees that are paid more, at $12 an hour. These apprenticeships are 20 hours per week, and include training in several aspects of the museum as well as mentorship opportunities with members from the MOCA board of trustees. Hiring practices will reflect the demographics of Cuyahoga County.

MOCA is also overhauling its space to be more physically accessible to those with disabilities, reports Ideamstream, along with hiring an education fellow.

There are four new anniversary exhibitions, according to a press release. This includes A Terrible Thing, debuting in April. The multimedia installation is the work of Sondra Perry, the inaugural winner of Toby's Prize, an new biennial art award.

With the shift to being fee-free, the museum anticipates an attendance jump of 50 percent. Plus, the initiative is being supplemented by an increase in family activities and "civic engagement" events.

“We are looking to have inclusion permeate our entire structural and programmatic approach to the museum,” Snyder told ARTNews. “I’m not aware of any institution that is approaching this as comprehensively as we are, as simultaneously.”

The changes come on the heels of FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, an exhibition that debuted last summer and included MOCA, among many other featured art spaces.

The museum, once it re-opens, joins several other free art spaces in Cleveland, including the Museum of Art, SPACES, Transformer Station and the Cleveland Institute of Art's Reinberger Gallery.

Given that the Cleveland Public Library recently announced they are going fine-free as part of their 150th anniversary, Cleveland is (hopefully) experiencing a new wave of accessibility and inclusion that bodes well for the rest of the year.

The museum hosts an opening night party at 7 p.m. March 15, and resumes operations starting at 11 a.m. March 16.