As Cincinnati grew up into the fine city she is today, her borders slowly stopped expanding as much as other early American cities. Instead she turned inward, bolstering manufacturing, quality of life and culture. As a result, many of the locations around the city that promote an enriched artistic education are extremely easy to access for residents of Cincinnati — in particular, our many free art museums.
Our oldest art museum, the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM), has always been the recipient of generous donations since its founding in 1881 by the Women's Art Museum Association. Iconic names like Mary Emery (the founder of Mariemont) have donated enough money over the years to provide a few free days a week. But in 2003, the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Foundation donated enough (a “generous donation” according to CAM’s website) to eliminate a general admission fee literally forever.
GO: 953 Eden Park Dr., 11am-5pm Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Monday. Art After Dark events every final Friday of the month 5pm-9pm.
Another incredibly prominent museum in Cincinnati, the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) opened its doors to the public free of charge much more recently: February 12, 2016. This altruistic gesture was made possible through a $75,000 donation from the Johnson Foundation and a $150,000 donation from CAC’s newly formed circle of 50 patrons from throughout the area who believe that Cincinnati’s young people deserve access to art to expand their roles as thought leaders, artists and business professionals. These donors have committed to providing free admission to CAC for at least the next three years.
GO: 44 E 6th St., 10am-4pm Monday, Saturday and Sunday. 10am-9pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Closed Tuesday.
21c Museum Hotel opened a location in Cincinnati after the success of their original art museum and hotel combination in Louisville. They offer a sleek, upscale gallery space adjacent to (and often sharing exhibits with) the Contemporary Arts Center. The gallery and hotel are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week with the hope of spurring an economic driver for Cincinnati and providing a place where contemporary art can thrive and be appreciated.
GO: 609 Walnut St., 24 hours Monday-Sunday.