Just Giving It Away: Part 3

This is part 3 of a series of posts in response to Matthew Malady’s “El Cheapo Guide to Culture” on Slate.com. Go here for the first and second part of the series.

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Volunteer your time instead of forking over your money: Again, the attitude persists that cultural events are not worth the author’s money. I’ve already listed a few volunteer options and free events, so instead I’ll discuss ways to “fork over your money” for all the right reasons. Think of it as secular tithing, a way of getting something for something.

I attended two fundraisers this past week, supporting LiteracyKC and the Writers Place, and the Owen/Cox Dance Group. For the price of $40-50 bucks I ate tasty finger food, had wine selected and discussed by world class sommeliers, enjoyed a lecture on literature, a unique musical performance, and got to sneak a peek at one of the finest personal art collections in Kansas City, as well as the opportunity to check out an architectural gem. Not only that, but during the silent auction I won season tickets for another music group. All the proceeds go to organizations I think are valid, I had a fun evening out, and I also got cheap tickets for further entertainment. Triple score.

You can’t afford the ticket price? Offer to volunteer.

Put even a little bit of money up and you’ll get back a whole lot more. A Friends of Art membership to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of art not only gets you access to the museum and free parking, discounts for classes, the gift store and special events, but they send coupons and mailer out, too. Becoming a Friend of Kansas City Museum helps fund our local history and gives you access to special events.

Still don’t have the money to contribute and you’re not available when they need extra help? Do you have skills or materials or a professional connection? There are many little ways that can aid in making an artistic venture successful.

Try being direct: The most effective way to get culture on the cheap? Nurture the human element. Find interesting people and spend time with them. Humans are, after all, the creators of culture. Don’t just try to be nice to get something for free, schmoozing your way into events. Take a genuine interest in people: ask musicians were they’re playing next, find out when the next gallery opening is, what the artist’s plans are for their next project.

Malady recommended just asking for free tickets. While there is nothing wrong with this strategy, keep in mind that many organizations already offer discounts for seniors, students, active military and their families, members (memberships go a long way with covering annual costs), and even “under-35” in the case of the Unicorn Theatre. Organizations will also advertise “promo codes” that when utilized initiate discounts. The Coterie Theatre even has Target-sponsored Saturday performances, offering a free ticket with each order.

Sometimes theaters will “paper the house” for shows that haven’t sold as many tickets as planned. Friends of the cast and crew are encouraged to show up and sit in the audience. Once again, getting to know people pays off.

I often find out about events through word-of-mouth. Be flexible and eclectic and you’ll never miss a beat.

Check back tomorrow for the final part of the series.

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