Culture Pass program gave out more than 70,000 museum, theater tickets in its first year

AM NEW YORK — August 12, 2019 — The Culture Pass program offering free admission to New York City library cardholders is an “enormous success,” according to city and library officials.

Since it launched in July 2018, the program has given out more than 70,000 free tickets to 50 cultural institutions across the city, including museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, botanical gardens in the Bronx and Brooklyn, and performance venues like Second Stage Theater, according to a release from the Brooklyn, New York and Queens public library systems.

When the program started last summer with 33 participating institutions, officials said they expected it to provide 58,000 passes annually at an estimated cost of $2 million.

On its first day, there was such demand to sign up that the libraries’ shared Culture Pass website crashed. By the end of its first year, 50 institutions were involved, 17 of which joined the program after its launch, bringing the total value to library cardholders to about $3 million, they said.

The three library systems also developed a four-month pilot in which they offered workshops, readings, artist and author talks for about 2,200 people across the boroughs.

“Culture Pass is an amazing gift to New Yorkers and makes it possible for people who might not otherwise be able to afford the price of admission to experience some of the world’s most renowned arts institutions, gardens, and historic sites,” said Queens Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott. “Thousands of our customers have borrowed passes or participated in workshops and discussions at our branches led by the cultural institutions involved with the program.”

The hope for Culture Pass was to provide access to museums and other sites to New Yorkers in more underserved communities who may not otherwise be able to afford tickets to them.

In its first year, about 44,000 passes were reserved by people living in underserved neighborhoods, library officials say.

If you’re wondering how this is all made possible, Culture Pass is funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Charles H. Revson Foundation, and the New York City Community Trust with the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs funds the community programming.

“For many of us, a library card is the first membership—the first key—we truly have ownership over, granting access to amazing worlds of knowledge and exploration right in our own backyard,” said Alex Simon-Fox, program officer at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. “Culture Pass extends the magic of the library card in giving New Yorkers access to some of the finest cultural and educational institutions in the world, with that same sense of opening up new possibilities right here at home. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation could not be prouder to be a part of the project.”

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