What a nice little surprise in the mail today - a "token" of appreciation from the Kennedy Center for being a member for 25 years. Keen! Nice to have an anniversary to celebrate.
I'm trying to remember "where" I was in my life and career 25 years ago that I decided I had enough moolah to start contributing it to arts organizations, which are, after all, not curing cancer or providing shoes to ailing orphans. I'd been at my job going on eight years and so must have just begun putting the "salad years" behind me. (Trust, me it's still rather famished around my checkbook even today.)
Anyway, recognizing the joys, and even meaning, that theaters, museums, and concerts have given me, that's about when I began signing up. The membership benefits are pretty nice, though I don't always take advantage of them. At the Kennedy Center, only in the last couple of years have I done the Thursday morning NSO dress rehearsals. At my level, I'm entitled to bring a pal, but everyone I know works at that hour of the week. I myself never took that Arts Day Off until last year. If I'd known how fun it was, I would have done it sooner. (Another benefit I was too shy to take advantage of on my own was a recent reception and backstage tour of the Eisenhower Theater.)
Ford's Theater is another one with nice member benefits. I get the annual Ford's Theater calendar, which is beautifully photographed and printed, but which I always give away because I make my own calendars every year (two, in fact--Clay and non-Clay).
The sweetest benefit at Ford's is the personal touch. If you're a member, and you buy your theater tickets through the box office instead of Ticketbastard, you get a nice envelope taped to your seat, with a thank-you note on letterhead and a slim box of mints with Lincoln's face (on the box, not the mints). This last time, when I went to 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, I even got a handwritten "enjoy the show" message from the staff member I've been harassing to find me a recording of either Clay Aiken singing "Sarah" at the 2008 gala or Edward Duke during any of his Jeeves appearances, 1984-89.
Ford's also sends invitations to lots of events, most of which, again, I'm too shy to attend on my own. (If I were to give my theaters a little tiny suggestion: do Meetups.)
Museums and galleries also offer social events as membership benefits, but I get more out of the magazines, even if they do pile up in my "reading" tray. Some good ones are Folger Shakespeare Library, the Phillips Collection, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, American Indian, and of course Smithsonian (which, ironically, somehow missed sending me the May issue, on science fiction and futurism. Maybe they were too ashamed!)
Also noteworthy in the member-benefits department is the fabulous Shakespeare Theatre Company, though I have to say I've mostly been mooching off a friend's STC member benefits. Yes, it's probably about time I invested in my own.
So anyway, thank you, Arts, for letting me join you once in a while. And Happy Anniversary, dear Kennedy Center.
Member of a civilization worth supporting