Milwaukee’s United Performing Arts Fund “Ride for the Arts” happened along the gorgeous lakefront this weekend. Included was a Milwaukee Art Museum team of bicycle riders including staff, members, friends, family, and neighbors who woke up early on a Sunday morning to ride 25 miles in support of the arts.
To be honest, I joined the ride because it’s fun. But the lines between work and play can blur very easily for non-profit professionals, so I’m going to put on my Director of Visitor Services hat and talk to you a little bit about how I see bicycles, cars, and all things public access.
Because “parking” is a part of my job description at the Milwaukee Art Museum. If you had asked me when I was studying printmaking at the Lamar Dodd School of Art if I would ever spend my career assessing parking spaces for cars and bicycles, fretting over bus schedules, and making sure our Museum’s online communication about transportation is clear, I would have laughed.
Even now, I ask myself, “Should museums be in the parking business?”
I’m pretty sure I went on record with this statement at the recent American Associations of Museums annual meeting in Minneapolis. Literally, I lose sleep over this question. (Sad, but true.) What I come to time and time again is the conclusion that, yes, Museums should be in the parking business. Here’s why:
You cannot see art if you cannot get here.
You cannot breathe in the residual paint fumes on a Picasso original if you literally cannot get here.
Your children cannot show you their favorite sculpture from a class field trip if you can’t afford to park your car (may I suggest a carpool?)
Rich, poor, young or old, to have the experience of an art museum, you’ve got to find a way to reach your destination. The Museum has a responsibility to you, the visitor. We have to make sure you can get here comfortably and safely. Should you choose to ride a tandem bicycle with your lover or pull up in your electric scooter, we want you here. We’ll give you a free wheelchair by request when you walk through the doors or loan you a stroller to push around your kids. If the elevator breaks, we will escort you down an alternate path.
I should add the disclaimer that a Museum cannot be all things to all people. So, if you get a parking ticket because you didn’t pay the meter, please be patient. If someone steals your fancy new bicycle reflector, let it go. If you bruise your knee, ask us for a band-aid. Consider your patience and cooperation a gift to your fellow art lovers or to yourself.
Spend a day at the Milwaukee Art Museum or spend a morning riding 25 miles to raise money and awareness for the United Performing Arts Fund. We’re all in this together.
This parking business is our business.
-Caitlin Martell, Director of Visitor Services