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Writer/Julie Engelhardt

Summer is here, which means the kids are out of school. The thought of not living by the alarm clock’s constant warning or stressing out about homework sounds delightful, but then this question comes to mind: How do I keep my children happy, as well as engaged, for the next couple of months?

There are family vacations, but those only last a week or so, and then there are day camps, visits to the pool or taking trips to local amusement parks…but soon these little outings can start costing a whole lot of money. 

Fortunately, there is an ingenious way that parents and caregivers can keep their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews active during the summer, and the best part is, it doesn’t cost participants a single dime.

It’s the Cultural Pass.

This is an admission-free program for young people, ages 0 to 21, that supports and encourages summer learning by providing access to more than 40 arts and cultural institutions across Louisville and Southern Indiana. The program kicks off June 1 and concludes August 6, when public and private schools return to regular session. The program is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

“The Cultural Pass started as a collaboration between the city (of Louisville), the library, the Fund for the Arts, and the Arts & Cultural Alliance,” Tory Parker says, Director of Marketing and Communications/Fund for the Arts.

“This is a program that runs alongside the library’s summer reading program,” she says. “It’s quite unique. Nowhere else in the country has a program this robust, and certainly not this old, that has as many venues participating for no cost.”

These important city entities make certain that obtaining a Cultural Pass is as easy as visiting your local library. Participating locations are the Louisville Free Public Library and Bullitt County Library in Kentucky; the Jeffersonville Township Public Library, Charlestown-Clark County Public Library, the Floyd County Library, and Harrison County Public Library in Indiana. Participants do need to register for a library card to obtain a pass.

“As of right now it’s a physical pass, like a passport, that you take to the cultural venue,” Parker says. “It’s really just a program to help get people out and about into the community to places that they might not be able to visit due to cost or that they might not be able to visit during the school year.”

Parker says that the Cultural Pass has been wildly successful, and the committee is excited about this year’s programming.

“We had over 40,000 passes given out last year, and over 56,000 visits to our venues,” she says. “We also had over 168 zip codes from Kentucky and Indiana represented.”

Parker explains that the passes are registered under each child’s name and one adult is welcome to accompany each child.

To be selected as a Cultural Pass location, venues first go through an application process.

“It’s open to any 501 (c) (3) that wants to participate that is in an arts and cultural institution,” Parker says. “We have an open registration period. They need to meet the qualifications and determine what they will offer and when they will be offering it. If it’s a first-time venue and if they have never completed the registration before or aren’t necessarily sure what they would do for Cultural Pass, we will work with them to help them establish what their programming can be, so that we can make sure that we have as many diverse experiences on the passport as possible.”

Here is a sample of the venues that will be available through the Cultural Pass program:

21c Museum Hotel

Good for ages 13 and older.  Visitors will be able to explore the art of the 21st Century with “Fragile Figures: Beings and Time,” and permanent exhibits at 21c Museum Hotel, Louisville! Catch the falling letters in “Text Rain,” see what objects you can find in the swirling “Wheel of Fortune,” enjoy the billowing rings from “Cloud Rings,” and lose yourself in a glowing landscape wallpaper by Virgil Marti. Learn more at www.21clouisville.com


Good for all ages.  Guests can visit the WXOX broadcast studio to learn how things work behind the scenes at an FM radio station. You will learn how to use a microphone, cue up records, and send shout outs to your friends and fans!

Arts Council of Southern Indiana dba Arts Alliance of Southern Indiana

Good for all ages. Explore galleries of local art and create your own masterpiece via the craft corner. Explore the monarch educational gardens and learn about the beautiful monarch butterfly and its migration. Local workshops are offered all summer long, and you can enjoy a special surprise at the end of your visit!

Frazier History Museum

Good for all ages. Enjoy a variety of hands-on exhibits. tours, screenings of KentuckyShow! and more! Learn about 500 million years of Kentucky history in “The Commonwealth: Divided we Fall,” take the trail with Lewis and Clark, or explore teamwork and healthy competition (and Pop-a-Shot!) in the Kentucky Rivalries exhibit.

Kentucky Derby Museum

Good for ages 3 and older. Programming will include thoroughbred care, creating traditions, horse tales, and Derby Fashion. Enjoy museum exhibits, the 360-degree film, “The Greatest Race,” and a guided track visit at Churchill Downs. Visit the website for more information about Cultural Pass-specific programs: www.DerbyMuseum.org/CulturalPass.

Historic Locust Grove

Good for ages 6 and older. Explore the stories and skills of all who lived and labored at Locust Grove, both free and enslaved. Learn about cooking over a fire in our hearth kitchen, playing historic games, and about the important connection between Locust Grove and Mammoth Cave through the eyes of Stephen Bishop, a famed enslaved guide at the cave.

The Louisville Leopard Percussionists

Good for ages 5 and older. Learn basic techniques and patterns on hand drums and auxiliary percussion instruments from drumming professionals as well as Louisville Leopard Students! All experience levels are welcome to explore and experiment with new sounds without fear of judgement.

Muhammad Ali Center

Good for ages 8 and older. Explore Muhammad Ali’s legendary life with the Ali Center’s interactive and multimedia exhibits and discover the six core principles that Muhammad Ali embraced throughout his life.

Speed Art Museum

Good for ages 8 and older. Enjoy free admission to the Museum and special exhibitions Rounding the Circle: The Mary and Al Shands Collection and Louisville’s Black Avant-Garde: Robert L. Douglas (opening June 30). Admission includes access to Art Sparks, Speed’s interactive hands-on gallery, and a fun gallery scavenger hunt for all ages.

Yew Dell Botanical Gardens

Good for all ages. In addition to beautiful flowers and trees, visit highlights include a Castle, a Fairy Forest, a Gnome Adventure on the Woodland Trails, and a greenhouse filled with plants. Pick up a scavenger hunt at check-in or use your phone for a QR-code tour of our gardens and grounds.

For more information about the Cultural Pass and what it has to offer for 2023, visit https://fundforthearts.org/culturalpass/.


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