Once upon a time, we checked out only books from the public library. Then came videos and CDs. These days, you can “check out” free museum or theater admission for two. It’s one more reason to love your local library.
The Culture Pass program, which offers library patrons the chance to explore participating arts and cultural venues, has been around for many years. But it’s changed in several ways from its early days.
Its new home is with Act One Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides arts and cultural experiences for under-served students. And it’s been expanded to include performing arts as well as museums.
Four performing arts organizations — ASU Gammage, Ballet Arizona, Childsplay and the Phoenix Symphony — are participating. Act One hopes to add more venues as increased funding for the Culture Pass program is secured.
More than 10 public libraries in the Phoenix metro area have displays with Culture Passes for various venues available for check-out. Passes are like books: If a pass for the venue you’d like to visit is already checked out, you’ll have to choose another pass or wait until the one you want is available.
You can’t reserve the passes in advance. They’re good for just seven days, and you can only use two passes per family per month. Passes are good for general admission for two people. Special museum exhibitions or events, or particular shows/seats, may not be included. Check first with venues about possible restrictions.
When a pass you’re looking for isn’t available, take the “glass half full” approach. Don’t fret that you can’t enjoy free admission to your first choice of venues that week. Instead, seize the opportunity to visit a museum you hadn’t considered before. There’s something to be said for serendipity and surprise, so go with the flow when it comes to choosing from available passes.
Apache Junction, Buckeye, Chandler, Glendale, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe Public Libraries are participating in the Act One Culture Pass program, along with Desert Foothills Library in Cave Creek and four ASU libraries in various parts of the Valley.
“On average, each of our 43 library partners has 83 passes a week,” says Megan Jefferies, interim executive for Act One Foundation. That’s 3,569 passes a week (or more than 185,000 a year), an astounding number of arts and culture experiences families might not be able to afford without the program. “It really speaks to the generosity of our cultural community,” says Jefferies.
Culture passes can help your family save money on outings where you can explore everything from animals to art. Explore science at Arizona Science Center, native plants at Desert Botanical Garden and the prehistoric Southwest at Deer Valley Rock Art Center. “There’s lots of neat stuff for kids to do at various venues,” says Jefferies.
Other participating venues include Arcosanti, the Arizona Historical Society’s Museum at Papago Park, Cave Creek Museum, Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Desert Caballeros Western Museum, Heard Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix Zoo, Pueblo Grande Museum, Rosson House, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and Superstition Mountain Museum.
Jefferies grew up in Phoenix and has enjoyed several of the venues that take part in the program. Her daughter Helen, who will soon celebrate her first birthday, is already sharing museum time with mom. “She loves to point at things,” says Jefferies.
The Act One Culture Pass website features links to participating libraries and cultural organizations, plus important details. While reviewing the FAQs section, for example, you’ll discover that performing arts passes are offered only at main branches of participating library systems.
Performing arts groups donate passes for specific shows and performances. During the last “The Velveteen Rabbit” run, Childsplay in Tempe donated 110 passes, which translates to 220 tickets. And Childsplay is donating 110 passes, available through 11 library locations, for “Schoolhouse Rock Live!”
Donating tickets for particular shows, performances and seats is the only way to assure there’s space for families using the passes, so don’t grumble if you have to finesse your schedule to take advantage of these freebies. One way to up your odds of finding a specific pass on your wish list is to spend more time at the library, which never takes much arm-twisting with our clan.
Have fun exploring libraries and arts venues within and beyond your own community. Too often we forget that the Valley is filled with cultural treasures. Tourists take them in, but we tend to take them for granted. Maybe Act One Culture Passes can help change that.