Free Fun Fridays at museums will begin June 28
Like many low-income parents, Hamideh Nilchi can’t afford to go to the museum. She took her 5-year-old daughter to a free event one evening at the Boston Children’s Museum, and the experience had them hooked. Melika, her daughter, was so enthralled she wanted to explore every area in the museum.
Since then, they have not been back — or to any other museums for that matter. Regular admission costs too much.
“I tried to get a library pass, but it always gone,’’ said Nilchi, a stay-at-home mom who lives in West Roxbury with her husband, a taxi driver. “I looked online, but all the museums are too expensive.”
Parents squeezed tight often don’t have enough cash to spare for a day at the museum. But a program by a Newton nonprofit hopes to give them a break. The Highland Street Foundation announced today that for the fifth straight year it will continue to give people the chance to trek the 16 historic sites on the Freedom Trail, go scavenger hunting at Tanglewood, or explore aquatic habitats at the Ocean Explorium in New Bedford.
And it won’t cost a penny.
The nonprofit will pay the admission costs for its Free Fun Fridays program, in which six cultural venues will be open for free each Friday from June 28 through Aug. 30.
The foundation has invested $650,000 this year to make the program possible at 60 different zoos, museums, festivals and exploriums, all of which are expected to attract some 200,000 visitors.
“The program and its mission are simple,’’ said Blake Jordan, the nonprofit’s executive director. “Free Fun Fridays is a making the arts accessible to all residents of Massachusetts. By opening the doors to this treasure for free, many people have a chance to visit a museum they have not been to in their own backyards.”
Established five years ago in the middle of the economic downtown, the program helps families to do something educational and cultural with their children at a time of the year when students are out of school and idle.
State Education Secretary Matthew Malone said the program is a boon for young people, who need to be intellectually and socially engaged during their down time.
“Learning does not stop in the summer,’’ he said during a conference call with reporters announcing this year’s effort. “It’s very important that we keep young people engaged. What’s most exciting about this program, about this model, about this concept is that it’s not just good for young people, either.”
The program has grown through the years, from 10 institutions and 60,000 visitors at the start to 50 institutions and 100,000 visitors year.
This year’s institutions include sites that have participated previously such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. New venues include The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington and the Ocean Explorium in New Bedford.
The Freedom Trail Foundation is also participating for the first time, and officials plan to add staff to handle the demand for tours, said Tavia Malone, business manager at the foundation.
“We are expecting a big turnout,’’ said Malone.
The foundation also plans to limit the number of people on each of the tours —which stop at the Old South Meeting House, Granary Burying Ground, and Faneuil Hall — to keep the experience enjoyable for all, she added.
Lynn DuVal Luse, director of marketing and public programs at the Museum of African American History on Beacon Hill, said the facility will also get a boost from the free event.
“This is a big help,’’ said DuVal. She said the museum has other free events, including ones commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the recruitment of black troops in the Civil War.
The announcement was good news for Michaela Sammey, a 20-year-old Mattapan resident who occasionally takes young nieces to the Children’s Museum on Friday evenings when admission is only $1. She has gone to other museums only on school trips when she did not have to pay.
Now she is grateful that she will get a chance to visit.
“I don’t normally go because it is too expensive,’’ she said. “Now I can definitely go.’’Meghan Irons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.