Blue Star Museums program shows growth

Rocco Landesman was head of the National Endowment for the Arts when the Blue Star Museums program started.
Kris Connor/Getty Images/file
Rocco Landesman was head of the National Endowment for the Arts when the Blue Star Museums program started.

“It’s not as well known as it should be,” Katie Getchell said in a recent telephone interview. Getchell, deputy director and chief brand officer of the Museum of Fine Arts, was talking about the Blue Star Museums program.

The MFA is one of nearly 100 Massachusetts cultural institutions that participate in the program. “We’re proud to have been a member from the start,” Getchell said.

Blue Star Museums, which began in 2010, is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts; the nonprofit organization Blue Star Families, which offers support to the families of military personnel; the Department of Defense; and participating museums.


From Memorial Day to Labor Day, those institutions provide free admission to anyone serving in the military and their family members, as well as those serving in the military reserve and National Guard. The idea for Blue Star Museums originated with then-NEA senior deputy chairman Joan Shigekawa and Blue Star Families CEO Kathy Roth-Douquet.

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“It keeps expanding and growing,” Rocco Landesman said in a phone interview. Landesman was head of the NEA when the program started. “It’s one of the things I’m proudest of in my tenure,” he said. “Every museum we called immediately signed on to it. There were no holdouts.”

The program began with 917 participating museums. Now there are more than 2,000, in all 50 states. On average, some 850,000 service personnel and family members annually take advantage of the program.

The MFA has found that each year it has between 3,500 and 4,000 Blue Star Museums visitors. Like many other participating institutions, the MFA has extended free admission under the program year-round.

“I think that’s coming,” Landesman said of Blue Star Museums becoming a 12-month program. “It’s going to be year-round everywhere.”

Mark Feeney can be reached at