For a family of four in the Bangor area earning the city’s median annual income of $42,115, the money available after all the bills are paid often doesn’t amount to much.
Access to the arts, be it a play or musical, a concert, a film or a dance performance, can be out of reach for a large swath of the Bangor area’s population, when a night out for four can come close to or even exceed $100 — and that’s just for tickets, not including the cost of food, beverages and transportation. And some of the area’s most affordable arts events, such as the American Folk Festival that didn’t charge admission and River City Cinema’s free outdoor movies in Pickering Square, have gone by the wayside in recent years.
A 2014 study by the Rand Corporation cited cost as a primary barrier to arts participation, alongside the perceived elitist status of many arts institutions. To that end, one of the goals of many arts organizations nationwide is to remove that barrier for most people.
“I think that nearly every arts organization in Maine in general is very keenly aware of the need to make things affordable for as many people as possible,” said Julie Richard, executive director of the Maine Arts Commission. “Being able to make sure there are free or inexpensive offerings, alongside those full-price tickets, is something I think most people in the arts care very deeply about.”
Though many organizations offer reduced prices for families, students, seniors and the military, not all do — which can put their offering out of reach for a large segment of the region’s population.
“It behooves arts organizations to keep Bangor’s demographics in mind,” said Brian Hinrichs, executive director of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra. “We are very economically diverse, and our population is really quite low, so it’s hard for us, for example, to justify charging prices that in other, larger areas could be much higher. Plus, the competition from stuff like Netflix just makes it even tougher.”
Richard said the biggest challenge can often be raising awareness of the offerings that already do exist, whether it’s discounted youth tickets, family deals or unique educational opportunities.
“This stuff is out there,” she said. “It’s just that people may not know about it.”
Which local organizations or businesses offer the most accessibility for families?
We’ve rounded up how much it costs for a typical concert, performance or screening for Bangor-area theater, music, dance and film, based on the average costs for this year’s tickets or admission at more than 25 venues in the area.
We’ve based all of these estimates on what it would cost for a family of four — two adults and two youths under 18 — to attend.
Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.
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