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Free admission days help everyone see The Westmoreland |
Art & Museums

Free admission days help everyone see The Westmoreland

Mary Pickels

With a goal of exposing as many visitors as possible to its exhibits and art work, and encouraging repeat patronage and membership, The Westmoreland Museum of American Art offers numerous opportunities for free admission.

Sponsorships and fundraising allow the Greensburg facility to put out the welcome mat, sans admission fees, on an increasingly regular basis, says Catena Bergevin, museum deputy director/director of advancement.

Regular admission remains a $15 “suggested donation” that most visitors pay.

“We felt for some folks that was still a hindrance. We didn’t want people to feel that way,” Bergevin says.

Following the museum’s 2015 renovation, it began hosting All About You! Free Admission Sunday, originally sponsored by UPMC Health Plan, the first Sunday of each month. (The next event will be on April 8, as the museum will be closed on Easter Sunday.)

“The interesting thing was we started to see up to three times as many visitors on those days,” Bergevin says.

Now in its third year, the popular monthly events are sponsored by the museum’s volunteer group, the Committee for The Westmoreland.

“The mission of the committee is to act as ambassadors for the museum within the community. There is no better way to achieve this goal than through inviting the community to come and enjoy the museum at these monthly free days,” says Kathy Longacre, committee president.

“It fits right into our mission of bringing people into the museum who have never come before,” Bergevin says.

Committee members attend those first Sunday events, she says, and talk with visitors, leading to a “lot of great data.”

“It’s been a really great partnership with the committee. We hope they will continue sponsoring it. We want to be able to offer this as a regular program,” Bergevin says.

“My favorite is when people say, ‘You know what, I’ve never been here before,’ ” Bergevin says, smiling.

Like many museums, The Westmoreland already offers free admission for those under 18, students and veterans and their families. Finding ways to offer additional patrons free visits is an important part of The Westmoreland’s mission, Bergevin says.

“It’s part of our strategic plan, it’s what we all believe. The museum is for everyone,” she says.

Free family fun

The museum began offering its Free! Family Day on two Saturdays a year, fall and spring, more than five years ago, with different sponsors stepping up to cover the event.

A March 24 event, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., is being supported by Michael J. and Aimee Rusinko Kakos, longtime museum supporters, Bergevin says.

“We had 900 people here (for the) November (event),” she says.

A partnership with the Westmoreland Library Network helped get the word out to families the museum had not been able to reach, she says.

“That was tremendous. We all get so excited when we see a lot of people in the museum. People thank us for having something that’s free that’s good for adults and children,” she says.

Mid-week culture break

The museum recently began offering free visits from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays.

“We wanted to focus on the immediate community. … We want people to come after work, after dinner, for date night,” Bergevin says.

The museum is seeing repeat visitation for the program, sponsored by First Commonwealth Bank.

“First Commonwealth Advisors has been a longtime supporter of the museum, because it’s important to us to support causes that enrich the lives of those living and working in our communities,” says David Buckiso, executive vice president, First Commonwealth Advisors. “We’re especially proud of the Free Wednesday initiative, which allows access to the museum for people who might not otherwise be able to visit. The museum is an invaluable resource in the community, and we’re so pleased we can offer it to everyone by supporting this initiative.”

Art stroll

Another free event is the April 14 Art Walk .

Presented by The Westmoreland, Seton Hill University, Westmoreland Cultural Trust and Think Greensburg, the walk will feature exhibits, performances, demonstrations and participatory activities from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The day includes free museum admission, and will highlight the new Art Happens public art project, featuring more than a dozen installations throughout downtown Greensburg.

“It’s an opportunity to sort of get people in the museum and see the cultural vitality in Greensburg. We hope it will be an annual event,” Bergevin says.

Sponsorship helps to provide such events, she says, with the hope that people will return for programs and exhibits, sign up for the museum newsletter, and eventually become members.

“We are seeing some of that. We are trying to attract a larger audience,” Bergevin says.

Art around town

The museum recently found another way to incorporate free admission through its Art Happens project. People are encouraged to take a selfie with one of the many art installations on the exteriors of downtown Greensburg buildings.

“Tag us (with #arthappensproject), come into the museum and see the original work of art. It’s our way of pushing art outside our walls and also inviting people to come inside and experience it for themselves,” Bergevin says.

The project is fully funded by grants and donations, with some building owners sponsoring placement of artworks, she says.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or [email protected] or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Catena Bergevin stands next to a wall in The Westmoreland Museum of American Art showing many of the Art Happens public art project subjects. Visitors who take selfies with the images and use the tag #arthappensproject can gain free museum admission.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Catena Bergevin, deputy director/director of advancement at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, discusses the museum's many free admission events.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Visitors to The Westmoreland Museum of American Art can write their own stories as part of the current 'Emigration-Immigration-Migration' exhibit.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Janey Wensel, assistant collections manager, cleans a portrait frame at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Among the family-friendly options at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art is the opportunity for little artists to get inspired and creative.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Younger sketch artists can not only admire art work at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art - they can show off their own skills as well.
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