Growing up in St. Louis, I assumed all major public resources like zoos, art museums, science centers and the like were free. It was a shock to the system when I learned that not only are they not free, but in many cases are fairly expensive. In Boston, this is the case, and memberships to these institutions is usually worthwhile if one takes a family there more than once. It always rankles my political senses when I have to pay for these resources rather than having the collective tax base shoulder the burden. I would rather pay the admission and more in taxes to cover the costs for all families to have access to cultural resources. We do this with libraries, but we don’t uniformly or even commonly do this with other institutions.
Thus, I was excited when I saw that the Museum of Fine Art was free on MLK Day. I didn’t quite get the kids out the door early, so we arrived on the train about 11:00 when the line stretching out the door wrapped around the front of the building and down the side street. Given that my son was probably going to wet his pants before we were able to enter the building, I decided to head to a nearby restaurant, hit the bathroom, and eat some lunch. After lunch, the line was shorter and moving quickly.
We entered the building, got our free tickets, checked the bag and coats, and then headed out to see art. I think we were able to see a part of each major collection while we were there. My daughter loved the stained glass, and my son was taken by the lion-headed Egyptian statue. Both loved going through the huge red-beaded doorway that an artist had made in reflection on blood and AIDS. I didn’t go into a description of the disease, but I did talk about blood and medicine. All-in-all, several millennia of art crammed into a couple of hours was an excellent way to spend the day, and it was free.