New Dali Museum underscores high cost of culture in Tampa Bay

6:42 PM, Jan 11, 2011   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- If you think Salvador Dali's artwork is surreal, think about this: in the Bay area, it's hard to find any cultural experience that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Some say for that, we all pay a price.

"We rise to the promise that art gives of emotional knowledge," said the Dali Museum's director Hank Home, during the grand opening.

More: The New Dali Museum opens
Photo Gallery: Dali Museum opening celebration parade

But that promise, that knowledge, comes at a cost which has soared out of reach for many in Tampa Bay these days.

Culture shock meets sticker shock.

Some other examples? Admission to the new Glazer Children's museum: $15 for adults. At Boston's Children's museum, regarded as one of the nation's finest, admission is just $12.

Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo - $24. The legendary Bronx Zoo? $16.

Florida's Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg charges a $14 admission. In Los Angeles, it's free.

Tampa's Museum of Art - $10. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City - Free.

Mosey on over to MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa and an adult admission is $21. Compare that with the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. or Manhattan's world renowned Museum of Natural History, where again, it costs nothing to visit.

"It's just really the way we're set up and what funding those institutions get," says Robin Nigh, manager of the city of Tampa's arts programs.

Nigh says other regions have museums and institutions with long-standing endowments, different tax structures and corporate sponsorships that we often lack in the Bay area.

The money to operate the museums is instead generated from admission. That drives ticket prices higher, and often out of reach for young people.

That's a shame, says Nigh, because it deprives young minds of art, culture, and all that comes with it.

"It changes their world. It opens their world, is perhaps a better way to put it," she says. "New ideas, ways to imagine, ways to think, critical thinking. Open mindedness."

"It would be wonderful if we could just make all those fees go away," she adds, "but you still have the costs of operation and such. So it really makes it very, very challenging."

The Florida Aquarium in Tampa's Channelside is $20 for an adult admission. When it comes to aquariums, very few -- if any around the country -- are free.

The Chattanooga and Georgia aquariums which are both highly regarded, and cost around $25 and $30 respectively.

It's not that there aren't things to do in Tampa Bay. There's plenty. Unfortunately, when it comes to culture in our area, it's hard to get immersed without getting soaked.

Eric Glasser, 10 News

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