Aldermen: No More Free Water for Pricey Art Institute

Increased admission fee along with annual subsidy: “That doesn’t seem fair”

The masterpieces at the Art Institute may be priceless, but last week the Chicago Park District approved a 50-percent increase in the price of admission. Annoyed by the increase from $12 to $18, a couple of aldermen are threatening to cut off the museum's free city services.

Churches, museums, hospitals, and other non-profits receive free water, free building permits, and waivers of license and inspection fees. The Art Institute receives a $6.6 million annual subsidy from the Chicago Park District.

But that could change if Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and Ald. Ginger Rugai (19th) have their way. They have introduced an ordinance that would prevent "any museum that charges admission in excess of $10" from receiving such benefits.

Burke blasted the Art Institute for trying to "gouge" Chicago Taxpayers, and criticized the museum for giving it's top six executives combined salary and bonuses totaling more than $2.2 million. 

He said Chicago taxpayers already pay the museum more than $6 million each year through park district taxes, and should therefore be exempt from the admission hike.

"It's one thing to charge $18 for somebody who's coming here from New Orleans or New York or San Francisco," he told the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's something entirely different… to charge $18 to a taxpayer who lives in Chicago, who's already paying taxes that subsidize these institutions."

The new proposal wouldn't just affect the Art Institute. If approved, it would also apply to the Museum of Science and Industry ($12 admission), the Shedd Aquarium ($12), the Museum of Contemporary Art ($12), and the Field Museum ($13).

Rugai added, "Once the proposed increase takes effect, the general admission to the Art Institute would top the Louvre Museum in Paris, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and the National Gallery in London."

"They are making it almost impossible for the average Chicago citizen to take his or her family to view these Chicago treasures," Burke said Wednesday, according to the Chicago Tribune.

"A family of four going to the museum would have to pay $72, plus parking," he said.

Burke has said he's open to compromise.

"This is not the first time we've heard this from (Ald. Burke)," Art Institute spokesman Erin Hogan said. "This is larger than the Art Institute. It involves other museums. This is not something we're going to respond to directly at this time."

Hogan added that for now, Museums in the Park (a consortium of museums located on Park District land) will be responding on all the museums' behalf that would be affected by Burke's proposed ordinance.

Matt Bartosik, editor of Off the Rocks' next issue and "between blogs" blogger, was always a fan of the museum's medieval armor.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us