Art Institute partnership to allow students greater access to museum resources

By Editor-in-Chief

With a simple flash of their school I.D., all Columbia students now have year-round free access to the Art Institute of Chicago, located at 111 S. Michigan Ave. 

Complimentary admission to the museum, which was rated the No. 1 museum in the world in 2014 by TripAdvisor, an American travel website that offers reviews of travel-related facilities and institutions, officially began June 15 for all current students.

Free access to the Art Institute is the result of Columbia’s newly established membership in the museum’s University Partner Program, a program many area colleges partake in to allow students free admission to the museum and the majority of services it offers.

Sponsored by a Columbia trustee, the program grants students access to resources including the encyclopedic collection, various lectures and other programs and archival materials in the Ryerson & Burnham libraries, according to a June 17 announcement via the college’s website.

Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Success, said he thinks greater accessibility to the museum for students exemplifies why students choose to live in Chicago and attend Columbia.

“To have free access to the Art Institute of Chicago literally just a couple of blocks from our campus—you could argue it is our campus—now students can go there [for] free as many times as they wish,” Kelly said. “I hope they will go often. It just speaks to the cultural resources that are part of students’ education at Columbia.”

President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim also noted the benefits to students of increased access to the museum.

“The idea of having basically unlimited access to the Art Institute…even if some of our students say, ‘Well, that’s not really my thing,’ it’s one of the great art museums in the world and just a really cool place to be,” Kim said. “We are looking for those kinds of opportunities for our students.”

While some students might view local museums and other institutions as options for rare visits on weekends, Madeline Shearer, institutional giving coordinator in the Art Institute’s Department of Development, said she hopes Columbia students will incorporate visiting the museum into their weekly plans when looking for a quiet place to study, work on projects or take a break between classes.

“We know that young adults play a huge part in the future of the museum and also the culture of Chicago. We really want [students] to know that they can come any day, multiple times, and really use the collection and the Ryerson and Burnham libraries as a resource to aid in their personal education,” Shearer said. “We have films that are open to the public and then various lectures from our own curators, visiting scholars and guest curators, so there’s so much more that comes with this program than easy access to the museum.”

Tim Cozzens, interim chair of the Art + Design Department, which will split into the Art & Art History and Design departments this fall, said he is pleased that students can now visit the museum without having to worry about budgeting their money for each visit.

“We have at our doorstep a world-renowned institution that some of our students just couldn’t visit on a regular basis,” Cozzens said. “It’s an amazing resource that always seemed to be a little out of reach for many of our students. [This program] will allow them to draw from those resources on an as-needed basis. They won’t have to plan for it. If they get inspired to visit, they’ll be able to go.”

Cozzens added that he thinks the sponsorship of the program by a Columbia trustee is to be seen as a vote of confidence in Columbia students’ creative lives.

In addition to free admission to the Art Institute, Kelly said current students should be reminded that they have access to many other Chicago museums and institutions for free or at a low cost, including free admission to the Museum of Contemporary Art, located at 220 E. Chicago Ave., and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, located on the first floor of the 600 S. Michigan Ave. Building.

Students can view a full calendar of the Art Institute’s scheduled artist lectures and other events online at: