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Does a ROM Membership and AGO Membership Make Sense?

Breaking down whether it’s worth becoming a member of these Canadian art institutes.

With about 70 or so museums and galleries around the city, Toronto’s art scene is very much underrated. Many of these spaces house specific categories of work, with the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) leading the way as established hubs for a variety of multidisciplinary work.  

But is an AGO or ROM membership only for artsy folk who frequent opening receptions or who can list the hottest artists in the city off the top of their head? We’ll let you decide, but with all each of these institutions have to offer, don’t be surprised if you’re rushing to sign up or renew your membership after reading this.

What’s In a ROM membership?

The ROM has fairly robust membership levels. Costs range from $112/year for an individual membership all the way to $681/year for what it calls its Director Circle membership. The benefits cater more towards pure art lovers as the cost goes up, so we’ll detail the benefits that you’ll receive regardless of what level you enter.

We’ll start with the true cost. A more accurate representation of pricing is $161/year. That’s what you’ll pay for either a family membership or social membership, assuming you’re not planning on going solo too often. Here’s what you get at that price:

● Unlimited free admission to ROM galleries and exhibitions

● Unlimited free admission to surcharged exhibitions*

● Previews of select exhibition and gallery openings

● Free Coat Check for all Members***

● Subscription to ROM magazine^

● Discounts on select programs, lectures, and special events

● Advance booking opportunities for special ticketed programs and events*

● Discounts at ROM Boutique and Druxy’s ROM Café*

● Discounts on select Gift Membership Levels*

● Special Member-only discounts at local cultural institutions

● Free general admission at select Canadian Museums*

● Monthly eNewsletters to keep you up-to-date

● Travel opportunities to destinations around the world*

What’s in an AGO membership?  

Like the ROM, the membership levels for the AGO are varied. Prices range from $110/year for an individual membership all the way to $2,499 for its Fellowship members. Again, we’ll discuss what all core AGO members receive regardless of membership level using the $145/year price range, which represents the cost for dual or family membership.  

● Free unlimited admission to the AGO's collections and most special exhibitions for the cardholder

● Exclusive use of the Norma Ridley Members' Lounge

● Discounts on AGO education programs including classes and talks

● Invitations to Members only exhibition previews and special events

● 10% discounts at shopAGO, caféAGO, Espresso Bar in Galleria Italia, AGO Bistro, and additional seasonal offers

● Free Coat Check

● Free subscription to the AGO Members magazine and subscription to our e-newsletters

● Voting privileges at the Annual General Meeting

Who should become members?

That’s the thousand dollar question. Should you be taking advantage of these benefits by purchasing an AGO or ROM membership? If you’re a family with teenage or younger kids, then the answer is yes. What’s not mentioned in the benefits above are the various programs each of these institutions offers.

The AGO, for instance, has regular guest speaker series, screenings, performances, youth and family programs that run over holidays and school breaks, plus their infamous First Thursday parties.

The ROM has its Saturday Club and Summer Club for kids, workshops and courses, performances, plus its notorious Friday Night Live party. All of these offerings from both the AGO and the ROM come at discounted prices for members and in some cases are no extra cost at all.

But don’t feel like you have to be married with children to take advantage. If you’re someone who appreciates culture who likes going out to events and meeting new people, then both the ROM and AGO are a perfect fit.

Is the membership worth it?

General admission cost at the ROM is $20 for adults and $14 for kids. If you go at least seven or eight times in a single year, you’ve already covered the cost of a family membership, and that’s just counting the $20 adult charge. If you have kids or a family, two or three trips already make the membership worth it. The AGO charges adults $19.50 for general admission and $11 for kids so the same rules apply.  

What becomes difficult to quantify is the value of the experience. The knowledge you or your children will gain, the exposure to culturally significant works of art, the potential for empathy because of this exposure just can’t be neatly summed up in a cost chart. These are lessons that last a lifetime.

The decision is yours, but regardless of which you choose, Butter can help you stay on top of these memberships and the various others you may have.

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