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Enjoying the finer things for free

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High art doesn't have to come at a high price. There are nearly a dozen ways for art enthusiasts to get their fix on a budget — or for free — this summer. Here are some opportunities for exploring the New Orleans arts scene that don't break the bank.

The Historic New Orleans Collection
533 Royal St., (504) 523-4662;
This September marks the 80th anniversary of the death of Huey P. Long, and From Winnfield to Washington: The Life and Career of Huey P. Long on display at the Historic New Orleans Collection's main Royal Street Gallery uses pictures, objects and documents to offer insight into Long's life and influence. At the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries (400 Chartres St.), find an entire exhibit dedicated to printed views of 19th-century New Orleans, complete with local insignias that celebrate the illustrations that depicted the city long before mass-media photography was in use. Both the Nelson galleries and the Royal Street gallery offer free admission.

Ogden Museum of Southern Art
925 Camp St., (504) 539-9650;
On Thursdays, gallery admission is free for Louisiana residents at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The Smithsonian-affiliated museum has an extensive permanent collection of Southern art in a variety of media, and the exhibit The Rising (through Sept. 20) celebrates the renewal of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods of 2005. Also on Thursdays, the museum opens for Ogden After Hours, a concert and happy hour event featuring live musicians and a cash bar for $10 admission (free for museum members).

New Orleans Museum of Art
City Park, 1 Collins C. Diboll Circle, (504) 658-4100;
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Ten Years Gone features six artists exploring memory and time. On Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Louisiana residents can see this exhibit and all of the other permanent and visiting exhibits for free. On Fridays, live music, art activities, lectures and more accompany NOMA's regular admission fee. Check the website for a changing schedule of Friday events.

Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
City Park, 1 Collins C. Diboll Circle, (504) 658-4100;
Any day of the week, people can roam the 5-acre sculpture garden's manicured lawns and paths, which wind among 200-year-old oak trees and an impressive collection of modern sculpture. There are more than 60 works by artists including Pierre Auguste Renoir, Louise Bourgeois, Henry Moore, Robert Indiana and Ida Kohlmeyer.

Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra
1010 Common St., Suite 2120, (504) 523-6530;
Open rehearsals for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra's calendar of chamber music concerts mean music lovers can enjoy intimate performances for $10 admission ($6 for students and teachers). In September, hear Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, followed by a program of works titled Fall Fireworks Oct. 1. For ticket information, visit the LPO website.

Joan Mitchell Center
2275 Bayou Road, (504) 940-2500;
A satellite program created by the New York-based Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Joan Mitchell Center aims to support contemporary visual artists in New Orleans, in part by offering free admission to all of its public programming, which includes open studio events, performances and more (a calendar is posted on the website). The center also invites local art lovers to participate in Community Coffee, a free monthly open house (that includes coffee and breakfast) for the center and a networking opportunity for art enthusiasts. The next two coffee events are July 8 and Aug. 12.

Louisiana State Museum
Various locations, (504) 568-6968;
The Louisiana State Museum system has several properties in the French Quarter. There are free concerts at the Old U.S. Mint (400 Esplanade Ave.), and admission to the landmark Madame John's Legacy (632 Dumaine St.) is free. Madame John's Legacy is a colonial French West Indies-style building constructed in 1788 and features displays about the building's history and Newcomb pottery. On Jackson Square, there are contemporary exhibits about Hurricane Katrina and Carnival as well as historical displays in the Cabildo and the Presbytere. Admission to either museum is $6 for adults. Children get in free, and there are discounts for students, senior citizens, active military and admission to multiple state museum properties.

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