Free admission to Joslyn starts Saturday; museum officials expect busy weekend

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Posted: Monday, June 3, 2013 12:00 am

You might want to fit in a little Monet-gazing on your Memorial Day weekend.

Free general admission to Joslyn Art Museum starts Saturday, and museum personnel expect bigger crowds than usual.

“We've had great response,” said Amy Rummel, museum spokeswoman. “I think it's going to be a busy weekend.”

She said extra staff will be on hand to greet visitors and answer questions.

In April, the museum announced that a three-year grant from the Sherwood Foundation would enable free admission. When the grant expires, Joslyn officials will determine how to make up admission fee revenues.

Omaha mom Vaneese Pattman said she's excited about the free entry and is planning to take her 5-year-old daughter, Jordyn, on Sunday afternoon.

Pattman took her daughter for the first time a few months ago, and the young girl soaked up the art. Jordyn, who likes drawing at home, especially loved the towering Dale Chihuly glass sculpture on the museum's second floor.

“She was amazed it was glass and not balloons,'' Pattman said.

This Saturday, the Joslyn will offer one of its regularly scheduled Saturday Surprise programs from 10 a.m. to noon. Kids and families can create art inspired by works at the museum.

A guided tour at 10:30 a.m. Saturday will focus on highlights of the permanent collection.

Jack Becker, museum director, said helping families and others develop an even stronger connection to the Joslyn is a key goal of the free admission.

Joslyn hours

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Thursdays: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Sundays: noon to 4 p.m.

Closed Mondays and major holidays

“It's the community's museum,” he said.

Last year's attendance at Joslyn was 142,612, up about 25 percent over 2011.

The museum is counting on the free admission to bring more people from more parts of the area through its doors.

Memorial Day weekend opens the summer travel season, and the free admission gives people another good reason to visit the city, said Dana Markel, executive director of the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau.

She said the free admission reinforces Omaha's image as an affordable destination. When people come to Omaha, they are looking for new experiences, she said, and that's something the Joslyn offers through its extensive collection.

Free admission has been Becker's goal since he came to Joslyn in 2010. The Joslyn has offered free admission on Saturday mornings for decades.

He saw other museums successfully make the transition — notably the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City, Mo., in 2001, the Baltimore Museum of Art in 2006, the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2007 and the Bronx Museum of the Arts last year. Most recently, the Dallas Museum of Art went free in January. Lincoln's Sheldon Museum of Art and the Des Moines Art Center also are free.

The Joslyn will continue to sell memberships that offer special perks.

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