Local art galleries don't charge admission, but there are two monthly coordinated evenings of openings, during which many serve free beer, wine or hors d'oeuvres. Galleries on Julia Street, in the surrounding Warehouse District and on Magazine Street host openings on the first Saturday of each month, generally from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Visit www.neworleansartsdistrict.com for information. Galleries in the St. Claude Avenue arts corridor have openings on the second Saturday of the month. Visit www.scadnola.com for more information.
George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art
The McKenna museum (2003 Carondelet St., 504-586-7432; www.themckennamuseum.com) presents works by artists of African descent and predominantly living in North America and shows museum founder Dwight McKenna's private collection. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors.
New Orleans Collection
The museum and research center (533 Royal St., 504-523-4662; www.hnoc.org) has more than a million documents, photographs, art and other items spanning Louisiana's history. It has permanent displays, rotating exhibits and four galleries. The Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art and the main Royal Street gallery are free. THNOC presents a monthly series of films set in and/or shot in Louisiana. The screenings are at 10:30 a.m. the last Saturday of the month and are free.
The Louisiana State Museum (504-568-6968; www.crt.state.la.us) operates several museums in the French Quarter. Admission to the Old U.S. Mint (400 Esplanade Ave.) is free, and it features exhibits about the history of the mint (the only one in the U.S. to produce money for both the U.S. and Confed-erate States), as well as displays about New Orleans jazz. The Cabildo (701 Chartres St.) on Jackson Square features exhibits about Louisiana history, and the adjacent Presbytere (751 Chartres St.) focuses on Mardi Gras and Hurricane Katrina. Both charge $6 for adults, $5 for students, seniors and active military members, with discounts on tickets to both venues.
National Park Service French Quarter Visitor Center
The National Park Service Visitor Center (419 Decatur St., 504-589-2636; www.nps.gov/jela) features displays about the geography and natural environment of south Louisiana. The center offers daily walking history tours in which rangers lead participants to the riverfront and describe the Mississippi River's role in the development of New Orleans. Tickets for the tour are free and are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 9 a.m. The tour starts at 9:30 a.m.
Film Society (NOFS)
Cinephiles under 30 get a big bang for their buck with a membership in NOFS (www.neworleansfilmsociety.org), which starts at $30 and includes free admissions to Thursday night special screenings at Chalmette Movies (8700 W. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette, 504-304-9903; www.chalmetteovies.com), free admission to screenings at the Contemporary Arts Center (900 Camp St., 504-309-6633; www.cacno.org), discounts on tickets to NOFS events, free sneak preview tickets at Theatres at Canal Place, The Prytania and AMC Palace theaters at Elmwood Shopping Center and Clearview Mall, and a chance to buy advance tickets to the New Orleans Film Festival.
New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA)
The New Orleans Museum of Art (City Park, 1 Collins C. Diboll Circle, 504-658-4100; www.noma.org) offers free admission to Louisiana residents on Wednesdays (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). The museum's permanent collections include 40,000 pieces, but it also hosts touring exhibits. NOMA also sponsors a range of programs, including Friday night film screenings, yoga and tai chi classes and music performances. Many are free to members. Memberships start at $60.
of Southern Art
Music fans have flocked to the Ogden Museum's (925 Camp St., 504-569-9650; www.ogdenmuseum.org) Thursday evening concerts ($10 admission, free for Ogden members), and the museum is friendly to art lovers the same day. Admission is free to Louisiana residents on Thursdays (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; does not include admission to Ogden After Hours concerts). Admission also is free for University of New Orleans faculty, staff and students with ID. Membership starts at $50 per year and includes free admission to most Ogden programs and free admission to 100 other museums in the southeastern U.S.
Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
Admission to the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden (City Park, 1 Collins C. Diboll Circle; www.noma.org) adjacent to NOMA is free. The landscaped park features 200-year-old live oaks, a lagoon with several terraces of seating and more than 60 works by artists including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Louise Bourgeois, Gaston Lachaise, Ida Kohlmeyer, Henry Moore, Joel Shapiro, Deborah Butterfield and others. The garden sometimes hosts special classes and theatrical performances (some charge admission).
University, Newcomb Art Gallery
Tulane's Newcomb Art Gallery (Wolden- berg Art Center, 504-865-5328; www.newcombartgallery.tulane.edu) is always free but is only open when school is in session. Its exhibits cover art movements, Louisiana art, contemporary works and permanent collections of Newcomb pottery, Tiffany windows and industrial arts.