Arts Access removes financial barriers to accessing arts experiences
Applications are now open to renew or sign up for Arts Access, a program by Arts Services Initiative of Western New York (ASI) that removes financial barriers that may prevent access to arts experiences. ASI partnered with more than 50 Western New York-based galleries, theaters, and other arts and cultural organizations in 2020 to offer passholders free or discounted admission, free transportation to and from events and venues, and digital spaces that connect passholders to news of both in-person and virtual activities.
The Arts Access pass is available to any resident of Erie or Niagara counties who receives income-based public assistance, such as SNAP, HEAP, WIC, Medicaid or TANF. According to a study completed by the Mobile Safety-Net Team and University at Buffalo’s Regional Institute, nearly one-third of Buffalo-Niagara residents, or 338,000 people, lived in or near poverty before COVID-19 hit. Since COVID-19 hit, those who serve those communities directly anticipate a spike in that number making the demand for this type of free access program even more important.
“We use the arts to help us make sense of our lives and the world we live in,” said Jennifer Swan-Kilpatrick, executive director of ASI. “We also use it to temporarily escape our challenges. The arts enrich all of our lives on a daily basis and most people don’t even notice until it’s no longer there. This program will continue to connect our residents and neighbors to all of the great arts and cultural activities we have year-round – a way for them to explore, create and educate during these tough times.”
ASI has been working closely with the program’s partner organizations to continue providing accessible programming even while many arts organizations remain closed or are open at limited capacity. To continue the program in the current state of COVID-19, ASI overhauled its Arts Access website to include a calendar of virtual events and activities, launched a biweekly e-newsletter to share updates on these offerings with passholders, and continues to build space in its Arts Access Facebook Group for passholders to connect, post questions and ideas, and discover in-person and virtual arts and cultural activities.
Arts Access was established in 2013 and is currently made possible due to support from the New York State Council on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Fund for the Arts, County of Erie, Harry Chapin Foundation, M&T Bank, and The Conable Family Foundation Fund at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.
ASI empowers the region's artists and arts organizations with connections to funding, learning opportunities, and community access to the arts. ASI is a resource hub for the Western New York arts and cultural sector.