Museums Open Wonders to Those in Need

Article excerpt

Opal Campbell-McNamee and her husband, Eamon, typically take their two autistic children to visit the Carnegie Museums at least once a week, sometimes more often in the summer.

It costs them $1 apiece.

"The only reason we can visit at all, especially as much as we go there, is because of the ACCESS program," said Campbell-McNamee, 32, of Beechview. "We can get in for a dollar each. Raising kids with autism is really expensive. We don't have extra resources for memberships to museums."

The state ACCESS Electronic Benefits Transfer card, given to families on welfare, food stamps or medical assistance, mushroomed in popularity at the Carnegie Museums and the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. Experts say the program is attracting attention around the country.

Admission to the Children's Museum, usually $13 for adults, is $1 with the ACCESS green card for residents with financial need. The Carnegie Museums offer $1 admission to an adult with a green card or a yellow card, which is given for medical assistance. It normally costs an adult $15 to visit the Carnegie.

"There's a definite trend among art museums in providing this kind of program with all kinds of communities and audiences that have not been thought of by art museums," said Janet Landay, executive director of the Association of Art Museum Directors in New York City.

Since 2007, use of the cards grew from 171 at the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History to 10,095 through November of this year. …