Atlanta Contemporary invests in engagement with free admission starting Sept. 1

Since starting as the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center's executive director a year ago, Julie Delliquanti has instituted a series of moves to make it more welcoming and to raise it on the radar of metro Atlantans interested in visual art.

That even included a recent rebranding to bring consistency to the name of the four-decade-old Westside institution -- which at different times also has been called the Contemporary, ACAC and its original name when it opened as a grassroots artist cooperative in 1973, Nexus.


Atlanta Contemporary took another big step in the direction of accessibility with the recent announcement that it will eliminate admission fees beginning Sept. 1.

“By removing cost as a barrier we hope that people who don’t know us yet will visit soon and those who do know us will deepen their engagement and visit regularly,” Delliquanti said in the announcement.

Strong public response to Free Thursdays launched in 2009, which along with other free programs has helped driven attendance over the last six years, planted the seed for making admission free every day.

Atlanta Contemporary’s board and staff has worked for a year and a half to rethink the nonprofit’s business model and fund-raising to make it possible.

It helped that the nonprofit received a $200,000 capitalization grant from the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund along with a $60,000 general operating support grant in May 2014. The capitalization grant, the largest award ever made by the Arts Fund to a single arts organization, was part of a pilot program aimed at helping mid-sized metro groups achieve financial stability while generating enough capital to carry out their artistic missions.

Atlanta Contemporary board president Tim Schrager told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution then that the board’s goal was “to really increase and diversify our audience and our donor base.”

In the announcement, he added, “We all strongly believe in the power of art and that art has the ability to foster dialogue and enrich the quality of life in our community. That is why our new initiative … is so critical.”

Atlanta Contemporary will be closed July 26 to Aug. 28 for exhibit installation and will reopen with its annual Art Party fund-raiser, 7 p.m. to midnight Aug. 29.

It also will debut a new membership model this fall “to activate members as civic donors and emphasize audience building,” according to the announcement.

Admission through July 25: $8, $5 students and seniors, free for ages 5 and under, free to all on Thursdays. 535 Means St. N.W., Atlanta. 404-688-1970,

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