Columbia Museum of Art offers free summer admission to South Carolinians

May 17, 2024

Supported by Art Bridges Foundation’s Access for All program

The Columbia Museum of Art has been selected to participate in Art Bridges Foundation’s Access for All program, a transformative, three-year funding initiative aimed at increasing access to museums across America and fostering engagement with local audiences. Through this generous support, the CMA is launching Free Summer at the CMA, a new endeavor that offers all residents of South Carolina free general admission to the museum from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This year’s Free Summer at the CMA kicks off Friday, May 24.

“We are thrilled and thankful to Art Bridges for their generosity and commitment to expanding arts access across the country and specifically here in South Carolina,” says Joelle Ryan-Cook, CMA deputy director. “This opportunity to focus on creative placemaking is so exciting and creates an environment where all S.C. residents are encouraged to return over and over for new experiences.”

Funding provided by Access for All also supports expanded hours and activities, allowing the CMA to open to the public on Mondays during the summer beginning June 3 and to offer new free programs including live music, a silent book club, and tours, along with daily activities including drawing boards and scavenger hunts. Many programs have already launched, with more in development.

Free Summer at the CMA gives South Carolinians free general admission and fun ways to engage seven days a week, providing a vibrant, safe, climate-controlled space for multigenerational arts experiences.

Access for All represents a sweeping effort to get people back to museums after COVID-19 brought declines in revenue, staffing, and attendance. With many museums seeing just 71 percent of their pre-pandemic attendance, Access for All aims to restore pre-pandemic levels — and open opportunities for all people to enjoy American art by reducing barriers to access and strengthening community relationships.

Generous support provided by Art Bridges Foundation’s Access for All program.

June Free Summer at the CMA Program Highlights

Morning Blend: A Jazz, Soul, and Coffee Series
Wednesdays, June 5, 12, 19, and 26 | 7:30 – 10:30 a.m.
Stop by Boyd Plaza and add variety to your morning routine with a series from our friends at Curiosity Coffee Bar. Relax with jazz from Kyle Bryant and a lineup of rotating musicians along with soul, funk, and R&B DJ sets from Preach Jacobs highlighting a different theme each week. Enjoy Curiosity’s coffee, tea, and vegan breakfast options and a Drake’s Duck-In popup with options including their famous chicken biscuits. Free to attend. Food and drink for purchase. Generous support provided by Art Bridges Foundation’s Access for All program and a grant from the Knight Foundation Fund at Central Carolina Community Foundation.

Free First Thursday at the CMA
Thursday, June 6 | 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Enjoy free admission and extended hours. Take a guided tour of the CMA Collection at 6:00 p.m. Last gallery entry at 7:30 p.m. Be on Boyd Plaza in the evening for live music, food vendors, and a beer garden. Free. Plaza events by First Thursday on Main. Generous support provided by Art Bridges Foundation’s Access for All program.

Opening Celebration for (Un)Settled
Saturday, June 15 | Refreshments 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. | Performance 2:00 – 2:45 p.m.
Celebrate the opening of new exhibition (Un)Settled: The Landscape in American Art with sweet treats and beverages from Main Street Bakery and a multidisciplinary performance featuring artist and poet Marlanda Dekine. Inspired by themes in (Un)Settled, Dekine joins pianist Moses Andrews III and dancer Starlitt Miller on stage to recite selected works from her book Thresh & Hold. Before the performance, get a sneak peek at the first episode of the (Un)Settled video podcast. Copies of Thresh & Hold available for purchase before and after the performance. Free with membership or admission. Admission is free for all SC residents.

This multi-year, multi-institutional exhibition partnership was formed by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art as part of the Art Bridges Cohort Program. Generous support provided by Art Bridges Foundation’s Access for All program.

Juneteenth at the CMA
Wednesday, June 19 | 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
In celebration of Juneteenth, the CMA is offering free admission and activities centered on Black art. Enjoy exhibitions Sergio Hudson: Focused on the Fit and (Un)Settled: The Landscape in American Art as well as the CMA Collection. Join the Friends of African American Art & Culture’s Dr. Nancy Tolson for a tour of Black art in the CMA Collection at 1:00 p.m. Or come early to experience Morning Blend: A Jazz, Soul, and Coffee Series on Boyd Plaza from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. Free.

Generous support provided by Art Bridges Foundation’s Access for All program, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, and Councilwoman Gretchen Barron, Richland County Council.

Read With Art: Silent Book Club at the CMA
Thursday, June 27 | 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. | Silent Reading Hour 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Join Jemia Williams, avid reader and Columbia’s Silent Book Club official host, for an evening celebrating literature and art. Whether you’re seeking solitude for quiet reflection or eager to connect with fellow bookworms, this event offers a welcoming space to come together and share your love for the written word. There is no assigned reading — simply bring along your current book and enjoy reading in the museum with art. Take the first half hour to settle in with light refreshments and then spend the next hour in silent reading. During the last half hour, attendees are welcome to continue reading, explore the galleries, socialize, or take a look at some CMA staff picks to find a new read connected to the visual arts. Free. Registration required as space is limited. Gallery admission included. Generous support provided by Art Bridges Foundation’s Access for All program and a grant from the Knight Foundation Fund at Central Carolina Community Foundation.


About the CMA

The Columbia Museum of Art is a charitable nonprofit organization dedicated to lifelong learning and community enrichment for all. Located in the heart of downtown Columbia, S.C., the CMA ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and creative educational programs. At the heart of the CMA and its programs is its collection, which encompasses 7,000 works and spans 5,000 years of art history. Established in 1950, the CMA now welcomes more than 150,000 visitors annually and is a catalyst for community creativity and education, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds. It is the recipient of a National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a National Art Education Association award for its contributions to arts education, a National Park Foundation Award, and two Governor’s Awards for the Arts for outstanding contributions to the arts in South Carolina. In order to serve even more audiences, the CMA underwent a transformation. Funded by a successful capital campaign, the two-year renovation project garnered new collection galleries with a progressive thematic layout, new studios for artmaking, cutting-edge program and event spaces, and an entrance on Main Street. Overall, more than 15,000 square feet of functional space were added to the building’s existing footprint. To learn more, visit


About Art Bridges Foundation

Art Bridges Foundation is the vision of philanthropist and arts patron Alice Walton. The mission of Art Bridges is to expand access to American art in all regions across the United States. Since 2017, Art Bridges has been creating and supporting programs that bring outstanding works of American art out of storage and into communities. Art Bridges partners with a growing network of over 220 museums of all sizes and locations on nearly 700 projects across the nation, impacting over 4.1 million people, to provide financial and strategic support for exhibition development, loans from the Art Bridges Collection, and programs designed to educate, inspire, and deepen engagement with local audiences. The Art Bridges Collection represents an expanding vision of American art from the 19th century to present day and encompasses multiple media and voices. For more information, visit