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June 08, 2012

Armywide News

Free museum program honors servicemembers, Families

WASHINGTON, D.C. (American Forces Press Service) — Servicemembers and their Families will have free entry into more than 1,600 of the nation’s museums this summer through a joint venture between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Blue Star Families.

The program began with about 600 participating museums in 2009 and its fast growth has been exciting, Rocco Landesman, chairman of the endowment said.

“It was really our idea along with Blue Star Families to give back to active-duty servicemembers who defend this country and sacrifice every day, along with their Families,” Landesman said. “This is a way for museums to say ‘thank you,’ and also a way for them to build their partnership with DoD (Department of Defense).”

Landesman said he hopes that partnership will continue to grow and offer more of the arts to military Families.

The free-admission program, known as Blue Star Museums, also “builds an audience of the future” for museums, Landesman said.

“Early exposure (to museums and art) is a critical element for building future exposure in the arts,” he said.

More than 300,000 servicemembers and their Families took part in the program last summer, Landesman said.

Participating museums, including many children’s museums, can be found in every state, he said, noting it is ideal for Families seeking entertainment opportunities on a limited budget.

Participating museums underwrite the waived fees, Landesman said, and it is unclear how much money they lose.

Museum entrance fees range from more than $25, to some that have only nominal fees with suggested donations, he said.

In those cases, he said, servicemembers “could go in without paying, but I think they feel more welcome by knowing the fee is waived for them.”

Servicemembers can simply show up at a participating museum with their military identification card, and spouses may visit without the servicemember provided they show their ID card. The program is open to active-duty military, and Guard and Reserve members.

Stephanie Himel-Nelson, a spokeswoman for Blue Star Families, said the organization started the program with NEA based on feedback from its annual military Family surveys.

For more information or to locate a participating museum, go to www.bluestarfam.org.

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