When asked how she reacted to the Frost Art Museum receiving a $168,000 grant, director Jordana Pomeroy had one word.

“Woooo!”

The Frost Art Museum is one of four Florida art museums, including two in Miami, that got a boost from “Access for All,” a $40 million initiative to help institutions across the country rebound after the pandemic. This week, the Art Bridges Foundation, announced that 64 museums will receive grants ranging from $56,000 to more than $2 million for a three-year period to fund programs meant to attract new visitors.

Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum
Patricia and Phillip Frost Artwork Museum Cortesía/Museo de Arte Patricia & Phillip Frost

Nationally, two-thirds of museums reported reduced attendance compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to the American Alliance of Museums. Alice Walton, the Art Bridges founder and billionaire Walmart heir, said, “Everyone, no matter where they live, deserves access to art.”

“Access for All is our biggest and most ambitious effort to date, dedicating $40 million toward bridging gaps between museums of all sizes and their communities in order to foster meaningful connections and expand arts access in every region, from Peoria to Puerto Rico,” Walton said in a statement.

In Florida, the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, the Orlando Museum of Art, the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach and the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University were chosen to receive funding. Other museums included in the initiative are The San Diego Museum of Art, the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.

The Frost Art Museum has a strong relationship with Art Bridges and has borrowed art works from the foundation’s collection for museum programming in the past, Pomeroy said.

“They’re pretty familiar with what we deliver,” she said. “And so I was thrilled. It’s a significant amount of money. We could do a lot with that.”

The Frost Art Museum plans to use the money to expand popular programs and stay open after hours, likely for a couple nights a month, Pomeroy said. While the museum is free to enter, Pomeroy said the museum recognizes that not everyone is able to stop by during normal hours, especially if they work during the day and take care of children.

While the museum’s visitorship has returned to pre-pandemic level, Pomeroy said the museum aims to beef up its membership by attracting more people. The biggest challenge for museums in general is to just get folks in the door, she said.

“It is literally this hundreds of years old conundrum,” she said. “How you bring people in? And part of that is that word, access. It’s so critical. It’s not just a light title.”

The Bass Museum has big plans for the $400,000 it received from the initiative, said executive director and chief curator Silvia Cubiñá. The museum’s upcoming 60th anniversary next year will be “the most democratic celebration that we’ve ever had” by reaching new audiences, she said. The museum is planning a massive, free picnic and concert for its anniversary along with extending its visiting hours.

The museum dealt with a huge dip in attendance during the pandemic, and has slowly seen visitors return, Cubiñá said. Visitorship is almost back to how it used to be, but not quite. Funding from Art Bridges will help meet the challenges museums like The Bass deal with on a day-to-day basis, she said.

“Grants like these are very wise,” she said. “You create these really great shows, you open them up. And then what you need is that extra push, that extra mile to get the most people in as possible.”

This story was produced with financial support from The Pérez Family Foundation, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The Miami Herald maintains full editorial control of this work.

By Indana