Employees of Penn Medicine and Drexel University will gain special access to events at several of the city’s arts and culture groups under a pilot program, both institutions announced Wednesday.
The Philadelphia Cultural Pass will provide free tickets to any of the roughly 40,000 Penn Medicine and 6,800 Drexel employees working full-time or more than half-time, said Ralph W. Muller, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
“People who work in places like Penn and Drexel are predisposed to going to arts and culture, so this is a natural fit,” said Muller, adding that tickets will be free to anyone from the worker delivering food trays in the hospital to the neurologist.
The program, he said, would evolve to include more partners, but at the moment the supporting institutions are Penn Medicine and Drexel, which will provide operating funds to the Philadelphia Orchestra, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Kimmel Center. The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is also a partner.
The details of which Kimmel Center events would be free to Penn and Drexel employees remain to be worked out, said a Kimmel spokesperson. But the intention was that it would include Kimmel Center Presents concerts, jazz and theater residency program performances, Broadway Philadelphia, and Philadanco, she said.
It was unclear Wednesday which of the Kimmel’s resident companies besides the orchestra and Philadanco might eventually be participating. Spokespersons for the Philly Pops, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Opera Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania Ballet said they had not been told of the program.
“We have not been approached about the Philadelphia Cultural Pass pilot program, but it sounds like a great initiative, and we would welcome a conversation about partnering with Penn Medicine and Drexel University,” said Opera Philadelphia vice president Frank Luzi. Spokespersons for some of the other companies said they would also be interested in discussing participation.
In addition to individuals taking advantage of the free tickets, Muller said he expected special events would bring organized employee groups to participating arts and culture venues.
Muller, who is also on the board of the Philadelphia Orchestra, stressed that the pilot might change over time. Programs that distribute free tickets tend to result in lower actual turnout of attendees, for instance, and if that proved to be the case here, a modest charge for tickets might be instituted, he said.
He declined to detail how much money would go from Penn and Drexel to participating arts groups. The amount would depend on how many employees ended up participating, he said.
Details on how employees will obtain free tickets are also in the works.
Orchestra president Matías Tarnopolsky said that hoped the program would gain new sponsors, as well as more arts-groups participants. “The better the access to the arts, the better it is for all of us," he said. "I hope it will grow quickly over the next few years.”