Students pile on for museum passes

Artist Cindy Stockton Moore with Sean Kelly at Eastern State Penitentiary, among museums in the program.
Artist Cindy Stockton Moore with Sean Kelly at Eastern State Penitentiary, among museums in the program. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff)
Posted: August 15, 2014

A program introduced last year to provide free access to Philadelphia museums for city high school students has proved such a success it is being expanded and extended.

More than 11,000 students participated in last year's program, called STAMP (Students at Museums in Philly), administered by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance - more than 10 times the projected participation.

Under the program, a dozen of the city's biggest and most popular museums offered free admission and other programs geared toward young people. The only requirements: Live in the city, be 14 to 19, and sign up.

They did. Big time.

"I think it shows teens really want to engage in the cultural sector," said Nicole Allen, director of policy and community engagement at the cultural alliance, "and taking away the cost barrier makes that possible."

Perhaps most important, she said, has been the high participation of young people from sections of the city with "traditionally low" cultural attendance rates - far West Philadelphia, Kensington, Frankford.

According to alliance data, 58 percent of participants are African American or Latino, and 47 percent come from "economically disadvantaged households."

For the most part, "these aren't kids coming from Center City," said Allen.

Jordan Deal, 17, of West Philadelphia, said he had gotten "more involved in art and more involved in programs" as result of STAMP. Deal, who will be a senior at the High School of Creative and Performing Arts, is a member of STAMP's Teen Council and works with the Institute of Contemporary Art.

"I try to let others know" about events at ICA, he said. "Every time I bring up an event with STAMP, [other students] are excited. Everyone is interested."

Because of the STAMP program's success, three more institutions will participate in year two. A dance party from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Philadelphia Museum of Art will kick it all off.

"We've seen good results the first year," said Damon Reaves, who coordinates community programs at the Art Museum. "Now, we're thinking about what we can do in terms of programs, what are we going to offer."

Students can enroll by registering at the STAMP website, They will receive the STAMP Pass and can learn about several new programs and bonuses initiated this year. (Students can also enroll at the museum dance party.)

Other participating institutions are the African American Museum in Philadelphia, the National Constitution Center, the Barnes Foundation, the National Museum of American Jewish History, Eastern State Penitentiary, the Penn Museum, the Fabric Workshop & Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Mutter Museum, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, and the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent.

Allen, of the cultural alliance, said the Philadelphia School District helped spread the word about the program last year after devastating cuts in district art programs. Talks are continuing about the level of district participation this year.



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