Board the 104 Bus at Regents’ Drive one of these remaining first semester weekends.

Ride to the Metro and sit down on one of the somewhat-frequent D.C.-bound trains. Watch the scenery fly by as you jet over the Anacostia River past West Hyattsville and speed through the dark tunnels through Columbia Heights and Shaw-Howard.

Step out at Gallery Place-Chinatown, and you’re steps away from two of America’s best free museums: The National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Conversely, you are also steps away from two of D.C.’s many, almost universally smaller, admission-charging museums, namely the National Museum of Crime and Punishment and the International Spy Museum (both museums charge $21.95 for adults). Down the street, the National Building Museum charges adults $8 to enter its exhibitions (although entrance to the historic building itself is free).

Step out at Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter, and you’re close to the National Gallery, the National Archives, the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History (albeit your best bet is to transfer for Federal Triangle). You’re also nearby to the Newseum, which charges $22.95 for adult admission.

"Laocoon," El Greco's only surviving mythological painting, depicts a scene from Virgil's "Aeneid." The city in the background is not Troy, however, but El Greco's adopted home, Toldedo, Spain. (Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art/Samuel H. Kress Collection)
“Laocoon,” El Greco’s only surviving mythological painting, depicts a scene from Virgil’s “Aeneid.” The city in the background is not Troy, however, but El Greco’s adopted home, Toldedo, Spain. (Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art/Samuel H. Kress Collection)

Ride one stop further, and you’re at L’Enfant Plaza, just a short walk from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian and the Hirshhorn Museum. From there, either transfer and ride to Smithsonian or walk another few blocks to the Smithsonian Castle, the Freer-Sackler Galleries and the National Museum of African Art, all free.

All of these stand examples to the enormous quantity of free art that exists less than an hour from campus and, unfortunately the quantity of over-enticing paid museums that students too often elect to go to instead.

Let me be clear: I have no intrinsic problem with any of the individual museums per se. They have things that you might like to see. They might even be worth the cost of admission. I just object to the false dichotomy they create with the free museums.

Their advertisements are flashier, their collections have greater popular appeal, and they somehow manage to draw an enormous amount of visitors to pay for a museum just blocks away from free ones with much larger collections.

A segment of the Berlin Wall is extremely cool, but why pay to see it with a college student’s limited budget when a vehicle that took humans into space and came back is on full view across the National Mall.

Bodegón by Jaime Colson, 1927, oil on canvas. (Courtesy of the Collection of the Customs General Directorate/Art Museum of the Americas)
Bodegón by Jaime Colson, 1927, oil on canvas. (Courtesy of the Collection of the Customs General Directorate/Art Museum of the Americas)

Serial killer paraphernalia is interesting, sure, but why not spend no money to see the portraits of all of our presidents nextdoor.

Call me frugal, call me nitpicky, but I feel that if a student here at Maryland would like to use their limited time and budget to see art and artifacts, they should visit one of D.C.’s plethora of free museums instead of forking over cash to see other collections.

You’ll notice that all year I’ve only written about exhibitions at free museums. This is not because there are not exhibitions at paid ones, but simply because they are more accessible and viable to college students.

So go out and see some free art in the last few weeks of this semester, perhaps as a break from that finals studying we’re all forgetting has to be done.

It’s only a Metro ride away.

writersblocheadshots15Evan Berkowitz is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at evanjberkowitz@gmail.com.

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