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Jeffery Perry is a partner at EY and board chair of Chicago Children's Museum. 0

In praise of free admissions at Children’s Museum

December 18th, 2016

Museum attendance is an important revenue source for any cultural institution, yet here was Jeffery Perry announcing that Chicago Children’s Museum just wrapped up nearly 100,000 free visits–again.

“We’ve pledged that a third of our visitors will be either free or significantly reduced admissions,” says Perry. It’s all about attracting “people who wouldn’t otherwise come” while finding other ways to boost revenues.

In fiscal 2016 (which ended in June), the museum (located in Navy Pier) saw 403,658 total visits–84,768 were free and 44,806 entered the door at reduced rates. In 2015, 412,973 people visited the museum, with 86,724 free and 49,556 entering at a lower rate (teachers and veterans among them).

The Museums for All program, which allows food stamp recipients to use their Link card to enter the museum, has been credited in part part with the boost in free attendance.

Robert Stein, executive vice president and chief program officer for the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, D.C., praised the program. “These are members of the community who might not otherwise come to the museum, so providing a way to bring in that audience doesn’t jeopardize ticket revenue.”

Perry’s commitment to the city’s under-served community comes form a personal place.

He’s a partner at EY, a global professional services firm. As a teen, Perry benefited from the Inroads nonprofit, which mentors minorities for a future in business. He earned a scholarship at Babson College, a premiere business school in Massachusetts, and later received an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Perry’s remained connected to Inroads and served as national board chair.

His move to be board chair came earlier this year and dovetails with museum plans to update its facade–all part of ongoing construction at Navy Pier.

Perry assures the renovation won’t interrupt exhibits or the programming experience for attendees.

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