You won't have to be a VIP this summer to receive free admission to 50 of the state's top cultural institutions.
Six local spots are part of a program called "Free Fun Fridays" which offers both residents and visitors free admission to museums, parks and other non-profit cultural attractions statewide on designated dates. A free Family Fun Fest will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday at Tanglewood.
"It's about access and opportunities," said Blake Jordan, the executive director of the Boston-based Highland Street Foundation. The organization independently funds enrichment programs in Massachusetts for both children and families.
Free admission gives visitors new experiences and venues new visitors.
Free Fun Fridays launched in 2009 with 10 cultural institutions partly to mark the foundation's 20th anniversary. But the Highland Street trustees, all family members of the late David J. McGrath Jr., who founded the program, have continued to expand the initiative each summer. Last year, the program offered free visits to 36 sites including the Norman Rockwell Museum, Tanglewood and the Berkshire Museum.
This summer, Free Fun Fridays expanded its partner sites in both Western Massachusetts and Berkshire County, and now has 50 offerings. Newcomers in the Berkshires include the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams.
"It's a great program. It's nice that more organizations in the Berkshires are participating. It's nice to be a part of a group of Berkshire attractions," said Katherine Myers, Mass MoCA's director of communications.
The Free Fun Friday events also coincide with other special events that happen at those venues on the day the program takes place. For example, those visiting Norman Rockwell Museum on Friday, Aug. 3 will not only receive free entry, but a chance to meet some of Rockwell's former painting models.
"This program started when the economy was at a low point. Sometimes when making tough decisions with a budget these [cultural activities] are some of the things that have to be cut out. It's been a real conscious decision of the trustees, that now is the time to step up," said Blake.
An added benefit is getting families and other groups of people to "go outside, go visit some of these places, and to go explore," he said.
To reach Jenn Smith:
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If you go ...
What: Free Fun Fridays events in Berkshire County sponsored by the Highland Street Foundation
- June 29: Tanglewood, Lenox, a Family Fun Fest with performances by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, an instrument playground, Kids Corner, crafts, goodie bags and more. Guests should enter through the Main Gate on West Street. Registration is recommended and can be done by calling (413) 637-5393 or register online at http://bit.ly/Mq7Gqs
- July 6: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, includes free admission and special activities.
- July 20: Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, free admission and Young Shaker's tour.
- Aug. 3: Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, free admission includes a "Meet the Models" event.
- Aug. 10: Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, free admission.
- Aug. 31: MASS MoCA, North Adams, free admission.
fridays.html or (617) 969-8900. It is recommended that visitors call for program hours and register large group visits.