Friends of the National Gallery
Ireland’s National Gallery is a state-owned institution that’s free to enter year round, aside from the odd exhibition, but that shouldn’t put you off joining. Much of what comes from being a ‘friend’ is about getting access to events that aren’t available to the general public, with exclusive year-round offers and freebies ranging from talks by artists to film screenings and a Christmas feast. You also get access to the friends’ section of the gallery, a classy Georgian room where you can do your own work should you wish, and, naturally, free access to any paid exhibits (recently, these included most of the surviving works of Vermeer).
National Gallery of Ireland, Merrion Square W, Dublin 2, Ireland, +353 1661 5133
United Arts Club
Dating back to 1907, the United Arts Club is another beautiful Georgian-based institution, a place that can trace its impact through some substantial moments in Irish cultural history. The founding members include significant historical figures William Butler Yeats and Countess Markievicz. Modern-day benefits relate to a range of different types of art, with the club dedicated to involvement in music, dance, literature, theatre, drawing, painting, photography, architecture and sculpture. There are lectures, meetings, dinners, readings, recitals and discussions throughout the year, while members are also encouraged to use the facilities. You can even stay here overnight.
The Irish Museum of Modern Art is another Dublin museum that’s usually free to enter (check out the grandiose grounds riddled with carefully placed sculptures, too), but membership will help you get the most out of the place. The key benefit for culture-lovers will come through access to the vast array of artists who exhibit here, many of whom give talks to members, who also get exclusive early, private access to exhibits. The pay-in exhibits are also free for members, while curators take the time to explain their selections regularly, too. And there’s free coffee in the fancy café, but that’s just a nice extra treat, right?
Dublin Camera Club
From capturing the sunset to learning how to manipulate your digital settings to create the perfect image, the Dublin Camera Club is a great place to learn your craft, and experience other people’s. Their Camden Street home has a constant rotation of exhibitions to enjoy, but the biggest draw for most members lies in the educational side: the courses, workshops, event outings and advice. But you never know, your creative endeavours might end up on the wall, too.
Do you view film as art? The Irish Film Institute certainly do, and a bit of time here is likely to convince you of the same. The general movie schedule is so far from the Hollywood mainstream it’s incredible, with regular multinational festivals and indie flicks as the staple. As well as being a cinema, the IFI is also an archive of Irish film, physically holding plenty of vital pieces of history in its archives. In exchange for membership, you’ll get a few discounts and freebies, but friends (a different category) get a little more behind-the-scenes action. Some locals say the IFI is the only good thing about Temple Bar. We’re not entirely sure they’re joking, either.
Irish Film Institute, 6 Eustace St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland, +353 1 679 3477