When Boston Public School students and their families got free admission to several of Boston’s cultural institutions last Sunday (Feb. 4), it marked the launch of a pilot program called BPS Sundays, which will run on the first two Sundays of each month through August.
BPS and the city of Boston have partnered with the Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Boston Children’s Museum, the Museum of Science, the Franklin Park Zoo, and the New England Aquarium, along with private funders.
Check-in appeared to run smoothly on day one at the New England Aquarium. A family of four approached the outdoor ticketing booth in front of the Atlantic harbor seals’ habitat. They handed over a printed confirmation of their timed-entry reservation, which they made using a BPS student ID number that was sent out to parents via email. With no money exchanged, they received a pass that allowed entry for the student and three guests.
The more the merrier, according to Anne Clark, partnership liaison for BPS. She emphasized the importance of family support in a child’s education. “One of the goals of this program is connecting to families as fellow partners in their students’ education,” she said. “We always say that the schools work in partnership with BPS families, and we hope that families taking advantage of this opportunity and in being part of students’ learning will enhance that partnership as we move forward.”
The ICA handled their check-in process slightly differently, asking walk-up visitors to fill out a form on an iPad that gathered information like the student’s name, school, number of family members and whether the visitors would like to receive email communications from the ICA.
Louis Fichera, his wife and two children visited the ICA for the first time on Sunday.
“We’ve been living in Boston for a while,” he said. “We have wanted to see the ICA forever. I guess we never had the chance because it’s always busy with kids and everything. Then we learned about the BPS program, and we were like, ‘Hey, we were waiting for a sign and probably this is the sign. Let’s go. Let’s check it out.’”
Fichera said his 5-year-old son Matteo has an interest in art and design that the family hopes to cultivate by going to places like the ICA. “More generally, you know, I think it’s nice to go around to museums,” he said, also noting the effect it has on himself. “I like to think it makes me a better human being.”
Colette Randall is the chief communications and marketing officer at the ICA, which has several accessibility programs, including free youth admission for visitors 18 and under. “A major part of the ICA’s outreach to our audiences falls under a strategy that we call ‘radical welcome,’ which means that we really strive to remove barriers to participation and for any person to come to the ICA and feel a sense of discovery, a sense of feeling a part of this community that we are creating around contemporary art,” she said.
Outside of the BPS Sundays program, all visitors 18 and under can visit the ICA at no charge, and if they are a youth member (a program that’s also free), they get a free plus one.
On the program’s first day, 1,902 students and family members visited the six participating institutions. For many of the kids and parents, they discovered someplace new; according to Boston Children’s Museum, 40 percent of the students who visited there said it was their first time.
The museums will share attendance numbers with the city to evaluate expanding the program beyond its current planned run through August.
This article was originally published on Feb. 5 by WBUR, 90.9FM. The Reporter and WBUR share content through a media partnership.