Last year, I was contacted by the very lovely blogger Fritha Strickland to try out an National Art Fund Pass.
Founded by Art Fund, the pass gives you access to hundreds of cultural attractions across the UK - art galleries, museums and historic buildings (you can sometimes get money off food and drink too - yum!).
The pass arrives with a great little handbook and information pack about all the places you can use your pass, and it comes with a free subscription to Art Quarterly magazine - which is full of interesting news and reviews of the arty and cultural.
I have to say that although I travel a lot, I haven't been able to use the Art Pass on it's own yet as a lot of the featured attractions do overlap with other memberships; such as the National Trust, 2 for 1 London by train or places with standard free entry (though with these you usually get a discount on certain exhibitions etc).
You do get some killer entry discounts at some great places, but I'd definitely recommend that if you're thinking about getting an Art Pass you should know someone else who has one as well. For me it was just a case of when I stumbled across somewhere I could get in for free, my family or SO would have a hefty price tag for their entrance - so we often opted for other attractions. For example in Stratford-Upon-Avon you can save a huge £12 on entrance to Shakespeare's Birthplace with the pass; and although I'd considered having a nip round on my own, I wanted to spend time at places I could visit with my family. You can get Double or Family Art Fund Pass cards, which I think would be brilliant (and completely solve this problem!), but as a non driver living a bit-too-far away from major attractions, I have to say I struggled.
|A slightly goofy-looking me visiting Gawthorpe Hall|
I think it's also worth checking where you can visit on the map before purchase; as I said, there's some really brilliant places to check out, but I found that unfortunately the majority of them are in London or other cities which aren't as accessible for me (being out in the North Western sticks).
|Snapped at the V&A last Summer after visiting The Tudors exhibition|
Some of the places I visited with Art Pass (although many of these did overlap with National Trust, two for one deals or general free entry - many have 50% off exhibitions with the Art Pass):
So all in all, I really do love what the Art Fund are doing with this. I think it's brilliant that by purchasing an Art Pass you are supporting thousands of galleries and museums, protecting the country's cultural assets and helping to make art accessible for everyone. The Art Quarterly magazines are great, although as an illustrator I'd have to say I'd like more contemporary illustration featured in there as well as classic art practices or modern art (although I must say there have been a couple of goooorgeous editorial illustrations like one in the pictures above by Matthew Cook). It's a good feeling to be part of a community with update letters on art events in your area, and all the visit options with the art map. However, as I said, if you don't live in a city and don't have particularly reliable transport links then do make sure that you have a buddy with an Art Fund pass, a Double or Family pass - after all, art is best shared.
Find out more about Art Fund or get yourself a National Art Pass here.
Note: I was invited by Art Fund to try out the Art Fund Pass for a year free of charge and write my honest opinion of it. I was not paid to write this review.