They were hard to miss in the galleries Tuesday. Runners, with their blue-and-yellow Boston Marathon jackets, gazed at Impressionist paintings, ancient sculptures, and contemporary works at the Museum of Fine Arts, mingling with schoolchildren out on April vacation.
In response to the Monday Marathon bombings, the MFA waived its $25 ticket price to offer Bostonians and visitors an alternative to the pandemonium that took place a day earlier and a mile away on Boylston Street.
“I thought it was a good thing to do today, to spend a calm day,” said Anna Turrent, 42, a runner from Mexico who finished the Marathon just before the first explosion Monday and found herself quickly shuffled away to Boston Common. “It’s important to watch some architecture and paintings and just remove yourself from the news.”
The MFA’s decision to waive admission fees was made early Tuesday morning, so many visitors did not find out about the free entrance until they approached the ticket booth. Most of those interviewed said they had planned to visit the MFA while in town, but the idea became more attractive after watching the scenes of destruction unfold Monday.
There was also the matter of events being canceled in response to the bombing, including Bruins and Celtics games, a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert, and a sold-out Moth story-telling event at Club Oberon in Cambridge.
“Ours is the opposite of canceling,” said MFA director Malcolm Rogers. “It’s doing something positive. You’ve just seen a horrible example of what a perverted human mind can do. What the works of art in our care show is what the human mind and the human hands can do at their greatest and their most inspired.”
Sam and Anita Scruggs agreed.
Tuesday afternoon, they stood in front of a Claude Monet painting. They had come to Boston from Kansas City, Mo., so Scruggs, to celebrate his 50th birthday, could run the Marathon for the first time. He finished in 3:17 and was back at the hotel when he and his wife heard about the explosions.
“The Red Sox game was on our hit list, but we got rained out Friday night,” said Sam Scruggs, who wore his running shoes and Marathon windbreaker. “We can’t go to the Celtics game. And, lo and behold, we got free admission to the museum.”
A postrace gathering Monday night had been decidedly somber, the couple said.
“That’s why we decided the art museum was a good idea,” said Anita Scruggs. The free admission “was a nice gesture,” she said, “kind of welcoming to the guests who were from out of town.”
The MFA wasn’t alone in offering free admission. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum remained closed Tuesday, as is standard, but the museum decided it would offer free admission Wednesday. The Boston Conservatory decided to make free the four performances of “Reflections: Love, Loss, and Living,” an interdisciplinary event billed as exploring “the universal human experience of loss and grief and how we overcome these experiences.” Tickets had started at $25. The Institute of Contemporary Art also waived its admission fee Tuesday.
“All of our hearts are constricted at the horror and cruelty,” said ICA director Jill Medvedow. “These are ways in which we hope to provide some solace or contemplation. These are all at the edges of the actual pain and suffering and loss that people are living right now. But it’s what we can do.”
For Aimee and Robert Franklin, that gesture was enough.
He had qualified for Boston six times in the past, but this is the first year the Eugene, Ore., resident decided to enter. The Franklins brought their son, Rory, 14, to the race, and he watched his father run a personal best time of 2:56, finishing just after 1 p.m.
“It was jubilant,” said Robert Franklin. “So much joy, especially turning into Boylston Street and seeing the finish line and all those flags. It brought tears to my eyes.”
That evening, watching the tragedy unfold, fielding worried e-mails and calls from back home, the Franklins considered not leaving their room at the Holiday Inn Express.
Then they thought of their son and the fact that this was his first trip to Boston.
“You don’t want to be defeated,” said Robert Franklin. “You don’t want to let the fear win.”
At the MFA, Franklin said he was impressed by the Roman sculptures, particularly because he is reading historian Will Durant’s “The Story of Civilization,” coauthored by Durant’s wife, Ariel.
Franklin also found it comforting to see so many people in the galleries wearing blue and yellow.
“Every time I see somebody wearing a jacket, I kind of pat my heart and look at them,” said Franklin.
“You just want to send a symbol of solidarity.”