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9 summer bargains at New Orleans museums and cultural institutions 

Exploring New Orleans on the cheap

click to enlarge A photo by Richard Sexton from the Historic New Orleans Collection's free exhibit Creole World: Photographs of New Orleans and the Latin Caribbean Sphere.

A photo by Richard Sexton from the Historic New Orleans Collection's free exhibit Creole World: Photographs of New Orleans and the Latin Caribbean Sphere.

It's not what the art world means by "priceless," but there are plenty of opportunities for art lovers to explore local museums at no cost (or low cost). Culture and history museums also offer free admission and special deals. Here are some of the opportunities to explore the city's culture on the cheap.

The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC)
533 Royal St., 504-523-4662; www.hnoc.org)— Anyone who wants to explore the tropics in air-conditioned comfort can take advantage of the exhibit Creole World: Photographs of New Orleans and the Latin Caribbean Sphere, which is on display at the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries (400 Chartres St.). The THNOC published the oversized photo book of Richard Sexton's exploration of the visual similarities between New Orleans and Latin American and Caribbean cities, including Cartagena, Colombia, and Havana, Cuba, among others. Both the Nelson Gallery and the main Royal Street gallery always offer free admission. A tribute to the Boswell Sisters is on display in the main gallery.

Ogden Museum of Southern Art
(925 Camp St., 504-569-9650; www.ogdenmuseum.org) — Music fans have flocked to the Ogden Museum's Thursday evening concerts ($10 admission), 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). Entrance is also free to University of New Orleans faculty, staff and students with ID. Current shows include Sense of Place II, featuring works from the permanent collections, and Shadows of History: Photographs of the Civil War from the Collection of Julia J. Norrell.

New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA)
City Park, 1 Collins C. Diboll Circle, 504-658-4100; www.noma.org) — The New Orleans Museum of Art offers free admission to Louisiana residents on Wednesdays (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It just opened the show Behind Closed Doors: Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492-1898, which features paintings, sculpture, prints, textiles and decorative art objects reflecting the wealth and lifestyles of Spanish immigrants and descendents.

Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
(City Park, 1 Collins C. Diboll Circle; www.noma.org) — Admission to the sculpture garden adjoining NOMA is always free. The landscaped park features 200-year-old live oaks, a lagoon with several terraces with 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.

Gallery openings — Local art galleries don't charge admission, but there are two monthly coordinated evenings of openings, during which many serve complimentary beer, wine or light bites. Galleries on Julia Street, in the surrounding Warehouse District and on Magazine Street host openings on the first Saturday of the 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
(2003 Carondelet St., 504-586-7432; www.themckennamuseum.com) — The McKenna museum presents work by artists of African descent in North America and beyond. The current exhibition is drawn from founder Dwight McKenna's collection and features work by Clementine Hunter, Hale Woodruff, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Ulrick Jean Pierre and others. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors, but the museum is participating in the Blue Star Museums program this summer, so military members and their families are admitted free.

Tulane University, Newcomb Art Gallery
(Woldenberg Art Center, 504-865-5328; www.newcombartgallery.tulane.edu) — Tulane's Newcomb Art Gallery is always free. Its current show explores portraits from early modern Europe and includes works by Anthony van Dyck, Rembrandt van Rijn, Francisco Goya, Paolo Veronese and others.

Louisiana State Museum
(504-568-6968; www.crt.state.la.us/louisiana-state-museum) — The Louisiana State Museum operates several museums in the French Quarter. Admission to the Old U.S. Mint (400 Esplanade Ave.) is free, and it features exhibits on the history of the mint, which produced the currency for both the U.S. and Confederate States, as well as displays about New Orleans jazz. On Jackson Square, the Cabildo (701 Chartres St.) features exhibits on Louisiana history, and the Presbytere (751 Chartres St.) has exhibits on Mardi Gras in Louisiana and Hurricane Katrina. Both facilities charge $6 for adults, $5 for students, seniors and active military members, and there are additional discounts available, including 20 percent off for purchases of tickets to multiple museums.

National Park Service French Quarter Visitor Center
(419 Decatur St., 504-589-2636; www.nps.gov/jela/French-quarter-site.htm) — The National Park Service Visitor Center has displays about the geography and natural environment of south Louisiana. It also offers daily history walks at 9:30 a.m. in which rangers lead participants to the riverfront and describe the Mississippi River's role in the development of New Orleans. Tickets are free and are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 9 a.m.



More New Orleans Cheap Thrills:

City Park on the cheap 24 cheap eats in 24 hours10 restaurants where you can BYOBFine dining super-bargainsHappy hours Bargains at museumsHow to see movies for freeFive $10 road trips near New OrleansFree and cheap live storytelling eventsLow-cost dental care

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