Life Skills: Cheap Art
We’ve all heard Middlebury is a bubble. Most arguments that begin there end urging students to burst out. While that is great advice, there are also plenty of incredible resources within the bubble that can be easy to ignore or take for granted until graduation.
The arts are one of the biggest. Think about it: at Middlebury, $12 sounds extravagant for a theater or dance show that features talented people and high production values in a venue five minutes from your room. You’d be hard-pressed to find that kind of deal anywhere else.
So here is some advice for the potentially more awesome but definitely more jagged and expensive post-graduate art world:
Pay for what’s good
Art is expensive. Recent graduates are (almost always) broke. In order to bridge the gap, I suggest going for quality rather than quantity. You can take risks on cheap events and save your big money for stuff that’s been recommended by friends. I had a grand plan to review a play a week in NYC, but I didn’t have the time or the budget. Instead, I splurged on one showing of Sleep No More and am still thinking about it. Just remember: paying money for experiences tends to make people happier than paying money for objects.
Don’t be discouraged by what sucks
Because some art just sucks. One of the first plays I saw after college—paid $18 to see—was godawful, pretentious, poorly acted and too long. It was like small-town community theater minus the feel-good message and cute children. People were getting paid to make this garbage? Middlebury can spoil people in lots of ways. But you can build a base of good arts options in your next setting without too much difficulty. One great way is to…
Be a fan
One of the best ways to learn about good stuff going on in the art world and save money is to let yourself get a little spam. If you go to a concert or exhibit or other show you like, subscribe to the performer’s email list. Also, general odd-stuff lists like NonsenseNYC (or your local equivalent) can quickly give you more options than you need. Lots of performers and performance spaces offer reduced ticket prices to subscribers, too. Everyone needs to promote their work, and you can often get a lot of benefit from promoting or receiving some propaganda. I’ve gotten a few free or discounted tickets just by staying informed.
Like what George said about participating in the news, one of the best ways to find what’s good in a community and develop a deeper connection is to participate. Activities like spoken-word open-mics or free drawing classes are cheaper and more frequent than big-ticket shows, and may plug you in to a world of different options.
For the Country Folk
My postgrad arts experience has been NYC-heavy, but I’m from a small town. I want to address the concerns of people who want to stay rural but still participate in the arts. There are always small groups of weird, talented people. It may be more difficult to find them in the country (you may need to look beyond social media, in the local paper or through word of mouth), but they’re around. Just ask people and let them know you’re interested; someone will be as starved for some creativity as you.