Arts Pass enhances students’ access to Chicago’s arts, culture
Two young women stand before an 84–by–60 inch, acrylic on wood artwork at the Museum of Contemporary Art on a recent spring evening. Animatedly, they discuss the immediacy of Chicago artist Deb Sokolow’s work and the impermanence of its comic strip–style.
The two University of Chicago first–years—one from the East Coast and the other from the West—are making their first visit to Chicago’s MCA using the new UChicago Arts Pass. The new University arts pass program allows students to experience many of the city’s cultural landmarks for free or at a reduced cost. The two students observing Sokolow’s piece, titled “You Tell People You’re Working Really Hard On Things These Days,” vow to take in many more of the city’s arts and culture during future visits.
‘A Night at the Museum’
This spring, more than 400 University students celebrated the new arts pass pilot project at a free gala evening at the contemporary art museum on Chicago’s Gold Coast. They dressed up and dressed down for the event, and a few students even wore a classmate’s high fashion designs as they wandered through the museum’s galleries and watched members of UChicago student arts groups perform. Others enjoyed an ArtSpeaks event with Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, moderated by Matthew Jackson, Professor in Art History, and engaged in a lively conversation about contemporary art.
“I think this is totally wonderful,” said Sage Gerson, one of the two first–years viewing the MCA’s latest exhibitions. Too often, she said, the cost of admission and the difficulty of organizing transportation prevent students’ exploration of the cultural side of the city. “And it’s frustrating,” Gerson said, “so frustrating.”
The Arts Pass program encourages students to engage in the artistic life of the city by removing some of the barriers that prevent them from experiencing Chicago’s rich performing and visual arts culture. With Arts Pass, the only ticket a student needs to visit the Art Institute of Chicago, for instance, or the MCA, is his or her University of Chicago identification card. Students also receive reduced rates at such venues as the Goodman Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre Company. The Lyric Opera of Chicago provides a limited number of free seats to dress rehearsals as well as its regular deep discount for students.
Students also have enhanced access to special programming and performances at the Court Theatre, Hyde Park Art Center, the Renaissance Society, Smart Museum, and University of Chicago Presents, and many other of the city’s great arts institutions.
The Arts Pass website features a calendar of performances that offer student discounts. To make it even easier for students, the site includes links to maps of each participating arts organization, as well as University and public transportation options.
Committed to exposing students to art
“We want students to have as much knowledge of contemporary culture in the city, as they do the classical culture that they’re learning in the University setting,” said Theaster Gates, Director of Arts Programming in the Provost’s Office. “If they come to Chicago and leave without having a cultural experience then it’s our fault. It’s my personal fault.”
Ashtin Berry, AB,’10, coordinated the Arts Pass program and helped plan the student–run evening at the MCA. A dancer, Berry noted, “The University is making a conscious decision that students need to be engaged in the arts.” She said that when she began her UChicago education she felt she had to choose between her art and her intellectual development. “I chose the intellectual, but I hope that for new students the choice won’t be as hard. It is the legacy I want to leave behind.”
The Arts Pass program evolved over this past school year, as the University refined its plans for the new Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts. “We continue to work on programmatic plans for the center, and constantly think about what it means for the University of Chicago to be a major player in the arts in Chicago,” said Gates.
There was a lot of interest in the wider Chicago arts community in the arts pass program, both in the prospect of drawing a new audience, and also in developing closer programmatic and artistic ties to the University, said Larry Norman, Deputy Provost for the Arts.
Norman spoke of the tremendous enthusiasm that has been building for the program.
When the program was first announced, Norman was teaching at the University’s Paris Center. He remembered how excited his students were about it. “With the Louvre before them,” he said, “this made them excited to come back to Chicago.”
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