By Raiza Giorgi
“No one should feel that they cannot visit a certain place and learn more about their surroundings from art, nature, animals and more,” said Stacey Otte-Demangate, executive director of the Wildling Museum of Art and Nature in Solvang.
“We are thrilled to be apart of this program.”
The Wildling, along with the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art, are the two Santa Ynez Valley museums out of the 18 participating in Santa Barbara County in the “Museums For All” access program. The program is a partnership between Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Association of Children’s Museums, and aimed to encourage people of all backgrounds to visit museums regularly and build lifelong museum-going habits.
“By removing barriers of admission, we want people to feel welcome to come with their family and experience different art activities.” Otte-Demangate said. “Now that COVID-19 is largely past us, we are hoping young people get turned on to art and nature as well as environmental concerns.”
The program offers those receiving food assistance (CalFresh/SNAP) benefits admission to 18 Santa Barbara County museums (see list)for a minimal fee from free to $3 per person, up to four people, with the presentation of a CalFresh (SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer — EBT) card. There are free and reduced admissions available to eligible members of the public at more than 700 museums across the country.
This initiative aims to double the number of participating museums, expand visits to all kinds of museums, establish an online community of practice, and gather evaluative data to support the long term sustainability of the program, according to the IMLS.
Otte-Demangate added they got involved because of Robin Gose, president and CEO of MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, who made other county museums aware of the program.
“We are so thankful Robin turned us on to this and a collective of us decided it was perfect,” she said.
With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, the Wildling is planning more in-person activities such as their Community Open House from 2 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 29. The event will have face painting, art activities and food trucks.
“This will be a fun event to welcome the community back to the museum and something fun given what we have all been through,” Otte-Demangate said.
The Wildling Museum’s funding has been cut because of not being open due to the pandemic, but it has been able to keep a small staff and some virtual programming because of the PPP and other local grants the museum qualified for.
“We are grateful for all our members who hung with us and let us keep them virtually engaged this past year,” she added.
Esther Bates of the Elverhoj Museum in Solvang said that they had just signed up for the Museum for All program when she was alerted to the county-wide effort and loves the fact it is a group effort.
“We are delighted to be part of this collaborative effort to make museums more accessible to all members of our community,” she said. “Museums offer experiences that educate, delight, stimulate and entertain. But first we need ways to let people know what we do and offer, and to make everyone feel welcome.”
The Elverhøj is currently honoring Solvang’s founding in 1911 and its 110th anniversary using the theme “Skål Solvang – Celebrating 110 Years of History & Culture.” See the Outdoor Fun article also in this issue.
“At Elverhøj, we are dedicated to offering easy access, which is why we always offer admission free of charge,” Bates added. “We warmly welcome families and are offering activities and prizes for children visiting as part of the Museums For All program.”
To find a list of participating museums countrywide, or to sign up for the program, please visit www.museums4all.org.
Participating Santa Barbara County museums are:
- Art, Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara
- Casa del Herrero
- Dunes Center
- Elverhoj Museum
- Goleta Valley Historical Society
- Lompoc Museum
- Ganna Walska Lotusland
- MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation
- Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara
- Museum of Sensory & Movement Experiences
- Old Mission Santa Barbara
- Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
- Santa Barbara Historical Museum
- Santa Barbara Maritime Museum
- Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History & Sea Center
- Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation
- Santa Barbara Zoo
- Wildling Museum of Art & Nature