I don’t know about you, but one of the things I love most about the arts is the opportunity it provides. Regardless of who you are or where you come from, art has a way of tapping into something core to all of us that can open new worlds of learning in a way that nothing else can. So when I stumbled across Austin Museum Day, project of the Austin Museum Partnership, I loved discovering that this event is offering free admission to thousands of Austin residents who likely wouldn’t otherwise visit cultural organizations.

Like many other large cities, Austin has quite an economic divide, such that underserved populations probably aren’t even aware of the numerous museums in Austin. By opening the door to these arts institutions for free, AMD is offering what could be life-changing opportunity. I reached out to learn more from Rebecca Marino, AMD visionary:

Q: How long has Austin Museums Day been in existence?

A: This year will be our 18th annual Austin Museum Day!

Q: Why was it created?

A: Austin Museum Day is one of the biggest benefits of joining the Austin Museum Partnership, which has close to 40 institution members (museums, galleries, etc.). We created it not only to increase member’s visitor traffic, but also to bring in a fresh new crowd that will experience their programming and hopefully either come back in the future or tell others about it.

Q: How many Austinites attend AMD? Do you find that you really are seeing new museum visitors?

A: We average at about 30,000 attendees each year and most Austin Museum Day visitors are first-time museum goers. Hearing people say, “this is SO cool! I had no idea this was here!” and seeing a kid engage in a museum for the first time is just awesome.

austin museumsQ: What are you hoping people take away from their AMD experience?

A: We can only hope that when people visit these institutions for the first time, they realize that this type of quality programming is going on year-round, all over the city. But even if these people and particularly families (who perhaps aren’t able to afford admission for these institutions) only go out to visit these institutions on AMD, that’s still a win for us, because in some instances, they wouldn’t get to experience it otherwise. For one adult, AMD has an approximate value of $75. For a family of four, AMD has an approximate value of $180. So yes, we are providing institutions with the opportunity to gain a new audience, but we are also providing members of the community the opportunity to experience these institutions at no cost.

Q: How are you getting the word out?

A: We work with a few local businesses, but have been trying to elevate this the past few years. We have several generous sponsors who contribute to our Museum Day budget, which is used primarily for marketing/reaching out to as many people as possible to let them know about Austin Museum. We also have a few sponsors such as the Austin Chronicle, who donates an insert that we put together to help let people know the programming at each institution and where they are. We put our sponsors logos on all signage, ads, our website, our Chronicle insert and promote them on all our social media channels.

Q: What “words of wisdom” would you share with another museum looking to do something similar in their community?

A: Collaboration is definitely key (as I mentioned before). Austin Museum Partnership works well because we have participants with different strengths/positions in the cultural community, so everyone contributes in what they know best while still learning a great deal from others around them.

Are you involved in a partnership, association or alliance that’s doing something similar for your community? Join the conversation and let us know how you are reaching new audiences at your organization!

austin museum partnership


Nicolle Bowling, Sr. Marketing Manager for the Arts & Cultural team at Blackbaud, is passionate about helping nonprofits increase their awareness through social and digital channels so they can meet and exceed their missions. Nicolle has worked with several nonprofit organizations such as Hope for New York, Apostles NYC, Midtown Pregnancy Support Center and Ballet Austin Guild. In her spare time, Nicolle is a wannabe foodie, part-time world traveler, and full-time mom to #Chloe the maltepom pup. Follow me on Twitter for Arts & Cultural tips, tricks and updates! @nicolle_nyc

Get nonprofit articles, best practice advice, fundraising ideas and invaluable industry reports and webinars delivered for free!