If the Art Institute of Chicago gets its way, admission to the museum will jump 50 percent this spring, from $12 to $18.  The AI is requesting permission for the increase at today’s meeting of the Chicago Park District Board (the AI sits on Park District land and, as one of the city’s Museums in the Park consortium, receives financial support from the Park District).

The rates for students and seniors will rise 71 percent, from $7 to $12. (For comparison, admission to New York’s Metropolitan Museum is $20.)

The AI’s rationale for the increases is largely based on the 30 percent additional display space it’ll offer with the opening of the $280 million Modern Wing in May. The museum also argues that it hasn’t raised admission prices for five years. A significant change went into effect three years ago, however, when the AI went from a “suggested donation” to a mandatory entrance fee.

The Art Institute is still raising money for an operating endowment for the new wing, which is opening in the worst economic environment in recent memory. Meanwhile, the economy is prompting cutbacks, consternation, and soul-searching at the AI’s sibling institution, the School of the Art Institute. For that story, see this week’s edition of my column, The Business.