Going forward, there is no excuse for a Maine student not to visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Beginning in July, any Maine student of any age will be admitted to the museum free of charge, at any time, thanks to a $2 million endowment by the Lunder Foundation of Portland.

Let’s say that again: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Any Maine student, any age, any time. Free.

Peter and Paula Lunder of Waterville created the foundation in 1988 to support arts, education and health care institutions, primarily in Maine. The Lunders are lifetime collectors of art and famously generous with their collection, particularly toward Colby College in Waterville.

Their latest initiative — a two-pronged effort formally known as the Lunder Maine Student Membership Program and the Lunder Summer Internship Program — targets Maine students. The gift allows students in public and private schools, as well as those who are home-schooled, to visit the museum for free.

Until now, school kids visiting the museum during school hours paid $7.50 each. Young people are always admitted free to the MFA during non-school hours.

In addition, the MFA is extending its University Membership Program to all Maine colleges and universities. Any student who attends college in Maine gets into the MFA for free.

For good measure, the Lunder program extends free admission to any Maine resident attending college outside of Maine as well.

The bottom line is simple: if you are a student from Maine or attending school in Maine, the MFA is yours.

“We’re not looking for any sort of onerous ID checks or anything like that. If someone identifies himself or herself as a student from Maine, he or she gets free admission,” said Bill McAvoy, the MFA’s director of development.

The other part of the program creates an MFA internship that targets up to five college students from Maine. The internship program will begin in July 2012.

In addition to offering Maine students the opportunity to work at the museum, the Lunder program also represents the first paid internships offered at the MFA.

“This effort is really just an extension of their interest in art,” said Jack Emory, president of the Lunder Foundation. “The core mission of the Lunder Foundation is education. They believe student access to places like the MFA is an important part of education.”

It’s hard to predict how many students this program will impact, McAvoy said. Each year, the MFA’s education department provides teacher workshops, resource material and guided museum visits for close to 60,000 elementary and secondary school students from across New England.

This will enhance that effort. It will enable Maine school groups to schedule trips knowing that admission is free.

The museum hopes to leverage the Lunder initiative to attract donors in other New England states to extend the program.

“The Lunders obviously are extremely loyal to Maine and the people of Maine,” McAvoy said. “In meeting with them, it became apparent that they wanted to do something that would benefit both Maine and the MFA and have some strong educational component to it. We came up with this idea, presented it to them, and they liked it very much.

“Their hearts are in the right place. They are both truly committed to Maine and to the MFA. This is a program that we think is a win-win-win — it’s a win for the MFA, a win for them and a win for the entire state of Maine.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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