Why This Matters: All Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents deserve access to Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s vibrant cultural community, regardless of ability to pay.
By Bernie Petit
Charlotte-Mecklenburg cultural organizations are continuing to ensure ticket costs don’t prevent residents from stepping through their doors.
Several are providing low-cost admission to their venues and performances for families with EBT or WIC cards.
There’s the Charlotte Symphony’s “Music For All” program, which allows community members with EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards to attend any symphony concert for $1 per ticket, best-available seating, beginning one hour prior to the performance.
Although admission to all mainstage symphony performances begins at $19, “we understand that even that can be prohibitive for many,” said Charlotte Symphony President Mary Deissler. “Accessibility is imperative to sustaining our organization and we strive to be relevant to all in our community, not just certain income segments.”
The symphony started “Music For All” in 2017 in order to break down perceived financial barriers to experiencing the symphony and expand its audience base.
“We knew that some of our cultural partners – Discovery Place in particular – offered similar programs and (we) decided to explore the same,” Deissler said.
Discovery Place launched “Welcome,” which provides low-cost access to families with EBT or WIC (Women, Infants and Children) cards, in December 2014. The science center welcomed more than 60,000 visitors to its museums through the program during its last fiscal year. And, since the program’s inception, Discovery Place has provided access to more than 200,000 visitors.
“Welcome” creates “the opportunity for learning experiences for all families because science and exploration should be for everyone, not just those who can afford it,” said Discovery Place President Catherine Wilson Horne.
To launch its program, Discovery Place worked with organizations serving low-resource populations, including Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services (DSS), Loaves & Fishes and Charlotte Bilingual Preschool.
The symphony has also partnered with DSS in addition to relying on social and traditional media to spread the word about “Music For All.”
“At this point, we just want to offer it to as many as possible,” Deissler said. “We are hopeful that it will build over time.”
There are several more low-cost options for residents to engage in Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s cultural community:
- Visitors with EBT cards or WIC vouchers can “Access History” at Levine Museum of the New South for $2 per person, for up to a family of five. The museum also caps admission costs at $30 for all families (up to nine people) and offers half-off admission on Sundays.
- Children’s Theatre of Charlotte offers $2 tickets to families with EBT cards, up to 6 tickets, for each production throughout its season.
- Admission to McColl Center and The Light Factory gallery is free; admission to Mint Museum Randolph and Mint Museum Uptown are free on Wednesday evenings from 5 – 9 p.m.; and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art at Levine Center for the Arts hosts regular Family Day events with free admission to children and $8 admission for others.
- Since 2009, Blumenthal Arts has offered free and highly discounted tickets to select touring Broadway shows to families with limited financial resources tickets through its Arts For All program.
- Clayworks offers free clay and pottery classes through ASC’s Culture Blocks program, which supports cultural programming close to home by utilizing local libraries, parks and recreation centers.
- Arts+ (formerly Community School of the Arts) provides financial assistance to more than 100 students each year so they can participate in all of its paid programs, including private lessons and workshops.
“Ensuring access to all citizens to the amazing arts and cultural activities that we have here in Charlotte-Mecklenburg is very important,” said ASC President Robert Bush. “It aligns with ASC’s mission but more importantly it aligns with the Cultural Vision Plan where the citizens of this community articulated the need for increased access so that everyone can participate in our cultural life, not a few.”