Whatever your hometown is — San Francisco, Tulsa, East Hampton, NY or Brecksville, Ohio — there are many things you can do to improve your cultural life, as well as that of your friends and neighbors. If you can’t give money, you can give time, and if you can’t give time, you can give your passion. All contributions, no matter how large or small, benefit the arts in America.
Make Nearby Cultural Institutions Part of Your Life
A friend of mine from Michigan recently went to New York to check out a special exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and noticed that the three works he liked the most were loaned from the Toledo Museum of Art. Although Toledo is 20 minutes from his house, he’d never visited the museum – because, he said, “I figured that there couldn’t be any great art in Toledo, Ohio.” Years ago, the Las Vegas Little Theatre seemed to be a enter for uninspired Neil Simon re-runs. Today it offers challenging well-acted productions that any theater would be proud to put on its stage and is a sterling example of how interested citizens working with an existing small local-arts organization can create a valuable community asset. You live near great or potentially great cultural institutions, which will only become better with your help. Schedule a visit or purchase a ticket to their next performance now! If you like what you see, even if all you see is potential, consider becoming a member or patron.
Go Out and Participate
Participation can be an excellent teacher of the arts. In addition, side benefits include exercise and an expanded social network. Learn to dance, sing in a choir, or develop your painting skills by helping the local theater build sets. Everyone has a talent. My father is seriously tone-deaf and has always been a bit clumsy, but put a pencil or crayons in his hand (even at age 94) and you will see art.
Assist Your Local Schools Efforts in the Arts
Shrinking school budgets always attack the arts first; many public schools have wisely turned to arts-minded members of the community for donations of time and money to keep these programs going. If your efforts help a grade-school student appreciate the humor and beauty of poetry or create an unforgettable experience for 100 kids putting on a musical, those children may benefit from your donation for the rest of their lives.
Watch and Support Public Television
While the overall quality of TV arts programming has improved over the years (especially on the Ovation and Discovery channels), nothing compares with PBS. It’s the American birthplace of legendary arts documentaries from Kenneth Clark and Ken Burns to Sister Wendy. Live at Lincoln Center, An Evening at Pops, Great Performances, and the like take you to the crème of American performing arts — at no admission charge. Charlie Rose and the PBS Newshour consistently devote time to important developments in the arts world. Watch PBS, and better yet, become a member of your local station. You help guarantee the continued development of excellent arts programming, plus you get a lot of side benefits and discounts, including a tax deduction.
Listen to and Support Public Radio
In many cities, National Public Radio (NPR) is the only place to go for classical music and jazz programming — not to mention informative local and national arts coverage, especially on Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Fresh Air. Trying to find an NPR station in a strange town? Tune the dial from 88.0 to 92.0—where most public radio stations can be located.
Few things can stretch your mind like a good book: fiction, non-fiction, even pulp novels from the ’50s have their benefits. When you can, read aloud to your kids, grandkids or nieces and nephews, or volunteer to read aloud at your local library or bookstore. Your listeners will enjoy, learn, and bond — both with books and with you.