WEST HARTFORD — Children can attend numerous museums for free across the state this summer as part of a new state program created in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a museum in West Hartford.
The program, Connecticut Summer at the Museum, runs from July 1 to Sept. 6 and is open to all Connecticut children 18 and younger, along with an accompanying adult.
More than 90 museums are on the list, including the Art Museum at University of Saint Joseph, though the museum is no stranger to the concept of increasing access by not charging a fee. The art museum is always free.
“Because our mission is to ‘stimulate learning and enjoyment among academic and community audiences by fostering direct engagement with original works of art,’ we feel it is important to provide as much access to our exhibitions and collection as possible,” said Ann Sievers, the museum’s director and curator.
Visitors are able to see a special exhibition and the galleries during the museum’s regular hours, or make an appointment to see works on paper in the print study room, she said.
“Like our first donor, the Rev.Andrew J. Kelly, we feel that fine art should be part of everyone’s life,” Sievers said. “We hope to encourage a love of art in USJ students and serve as a center of lifelong learning for them and for the Greater Hartford and Connecticut communities.”
The new state program also aims to help engage students.
“The Connecticut Summer at the Museum program is one of the many transformative investments the state is making to re-engage students, accelerate learning, and provide supports this summer,” said Charlene Russell-Tucker, the state’s acting education commissioner.
Gov. Ned Lamont originally proposed the program earlier this year as part of his larger plan to use part of the recovery funding Connecticut is receiving to provide children and families with engaging summer enrichment and learning experiences. His proposal was approved by the state legislature in the biennial state budget.
Historic house museums, historic sites, historical societies, art museums, children’s museums, science centers, special-interest museums, natural history museums, university museums, arboretums/botanical gardens and zoos are all on the participating list, which can be found at www.CTSummerMuseums.com.
Some of the participants include the Connecticut Science Center, Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, the Maritime Aquarium, Mystic Aquarium and Mystic Seaport Museum.
“This program provides a unique opportunity for children to take advantage of the world-class museums and attractions offered in Connecticut, while having both a fun and educational experience,”Lamont said. “Museums are centers of exploration, recreation, and learning, and will play an important role in helping provide social-emotional, mental health, and educational growth opportunities that were limited during the pandemic. It is my hope that families take advantage of this unique opportunity happening in Connecticut this summer.”
The Connecticut Summer at the Museum program is funded through a $15 million investment from the federal COVID-19 recovery funding Connecticut is receiving from the American Rescue Plan Act. It is being administered by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development’s Office of the Arts in partnership with Connecticut Humanities, and supported with an advertising campaign lead by the Office of Tourism.
“We’re excited to partner with museums of all types and sizes across the state to bring this important program to life,” said Liz Shapiro, director of arts, preservation, and museums at the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
Christine Castonguay, interim director of the Connecticut Office of Tourism, said this initiative will also help these museums.
Seventy grants were awarded to help offset the free admission.
“Connecticut museums contribute to the diverse array of tourism offerings and experiences available throughout our beautiful state,” she said. “Despite their own challenges over the past year and half, these businesses continue to show us why they’re so essential to our communities, economy and our overall quality of life here in Connecticut.”