STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — The state's "EBT Card to Culture" will offer low-income families access to more than 100 nonprofit arts, history, and science venues across the state through free or discounted admission.
State officials and cultural leaders formally launched the new program on Wednesday at the Norman Rockwell Museum, which offers free admission to cardholders. Supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Baker-Polito administration, the EBT Card to Culture is considered the most comprehensive effort of its kind in the nation to open doors to arts and cultural experiences for low-income families.
"In our new strategic plan, the Mass Cultural Council envisions a commonwealth where culture is inclusive, accessible, and embraces our diversity," said Anita Walker, the council's executive director. "The EBT Card to Culture is an important step toward achieving that vision in concert with our amazing partners in the cultural community. We look forward to expanding the reach of this program in the months and years to come."
The Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Department of Transitional Assistance are already promoting these cultural opportunities to the one in eight Massachusetts residents who are served by DTA. The approach has seen remarkable success at institutions that have employed it: Boston's Museum of Science, for example, has seen participation in its EBT card discounts rise steadily from a few hundred to more than 13,000 visitors annually in less than five years.
In addition to the Rockwell Museum, the card also includes access to such local venues as Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, The Mount, Berkshire Museum and Hancock Shaker Village. A full list of participating organizations is online.
Adrian Stair used the EBT Card to Culture to attend the Ko Festival of Performance in Amherst.
"I got to two performances which were, as usual, compelling views into the current state of affairs in our culture, and inspiring as well," he said. "Best of all, I participated in Kali Quinn's 'Compassionate Creativity' six-day workshop, which turned out to be an extraordinary and transformative event — leading me effortlessly to heights of creativity that I never knew I had in me. It changed my life and literally launched me into my next career. I couldn't have afforded the workshop if it hadn't been for the discount provided through my SNAP card."
The Mass Cultural Council will continue to work with the administration to encourage additional nonprofit cultural organizations to sign up to offer the Card to Culture, and with the organizations to promote its benefits. It is part of the agency's Universal Participation Initiative, which supports the growth and development of organizations that embrace inclusivity as core to their mission and employ universal design principles to meet the needs of their patrons. Nonprofit cultural organizations can sign onto the program online.
"Learning does not take place in the classroom alone," said DTA Commissioner Jeff McCue. "The commonwealth is rich with incredible cultural institutions that provide essential educational opportunities and I am thrilled so many organizations have stepped up to provide greater access for DTA clients. Their generosity will help families access opportunities once financially out of reach, and assist in breaking the cycle of multi-generational poverty."
State Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, and Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development, said state support for culture is premised on the idea that it enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities.
"The Card to Culture ensures that those experiences are shared by all of us here in the Berkshires and across the commonwealth," he said.
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