Faith Ringgold, American People
American People by Faith Ringgold. This and other paintings by Faith Ringgold will be shown this summer at the de Young Museum. Photo by Lydia Chávez 2019 from the de Young's show, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963–1983.

San Francisco residents who receive public assistance benefits will be eligible to secure free tickets to 21 of the city’s museums.

One remaining museum, the California Academy of Sciences, will offer deeply discounted tickets at $3 per person. Generally, tickets there are $44 for adults, $34 for children from 3 to 17 and more for young adults.

“You go to take your family to the exploratorium, and it can be over $100,” said Anne Stuhldreher, the director of the Financial Just Project, a city program that evaluates fees that adversely impact low-income residents and communities of color.

“Right now, a lot of families have been cooped up because of the pandemic, and around this time, are going, ‘Gosh, what do I do with my kid?’”

Museums in San Francisco can cost up to $75 for an adult visitor. Mayor London Breed introduced the Museums for All program in the summer of 2019, and is now making it a year-round attraction.

Residents who qualify can claim up to four tickets per visit for more than 20 local museums or cultural centers.

Some of the institutions require online reservations. Regardless, once eligible visitors arrive, they will need to show proof of residency and either an EBT or Medi-Cal card.

During the 2019 pilot program, some 25,000 low-income residents snapped up the free tickets. Many visited local museums for the first time ever, according to Stuhldreher.

Stuhldreher said it is unclear how many more tickets will be used, now that the program is operating year-round, but notes that The California Academy of Sciences, one of the most popular museums, has already dispensed 85,000 tickets since the program launched in 2019.

The pilot was modeled after the national Museums for All program, which was limited to food stamp recipients. The city’s program extends the free tickets to San Francisco residents who get Medi-Cal, some 225,000 San Franciscans.

“We wanted to go further up the scale and have more generous guidelines, just because we’re such an expensive city,” said Stuhldreher.

Stuhldreher hopes the free museum visits will open avenues for people seeking to do something fun and affordable with their families throughout the summer.

“We’re so lucky we have so many cultural treasures in this city. We just want to make sure they’re accessible to everyone regardless of your income,” Stuhldreher said. “These are amazing places that shouldn’t just be open to tourists or wealthy people.”

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Christine Delianne

Christine flew across the country from Long Island to the Bay Area for college. She is a junior at Stanford University, where she served as the Managing Editor for the student newspaper. Before joining Mission, she covered breaking news as an intern at Bay City News and The Sacramento Bee.

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    1. Museums for All is open to any San Francisco resident who receives EBT (food stamps) or Medi-Cal regardless of age. Each eligible resident can bring up to three additional guests.