Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Members Club

Last week I had the pleasure of getting together with one of my friends who I unfortunately had not seen for a while.  When making our plans she suggested we go to a little event at the Phillips Collection up in Dupont Circle called Phillips after 5.  This is apparently a fairly regular event the Phillips Collection holds on Thursday evenings.  Because my friend is a member and had a pass for me there was no need for a reservation and entry was completely free.

I have never been to the Phillips Collection before, even though I do love a good art museum.  As we were walking through a hallway to get to the refreshment area, I turned to my right and was stunned to see this amazing original Renoir painting staring back at me across a small room...

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And then I made a 180 degree turn and saw this Degas beauty on the opposite side...

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Now I have been to the Smithsonians, and I have seen original works by these two artists before, but I have never been as floored by the experience as I was right then.  I think the reason is that the Phillips Collection is much smaller and more intimate, it does not feel like a large sterile space.  In fact, it almost feels as if you are viewing one of these pieces hanging on your own wall in your own home.  And this was when I realized how special this space is and I began asking my friend about her membership. 

Memberships to arts organizations such as the Phillips Collection are essential to helping these organizations thrive.  The money allows the organizations to pay their staff, maintain their facilities, and obviously share their artworks and talents with the public.  I know, it may sound like a pricey thing to become a "member", but when you actually look into it there is virtually always a very affordable option which typically include some very good perks.  For example, a base membership for an individual at the Phillips Collection is only $60 for the year (which is fully tax deductible).  This membership offers unlimited free admission to view the collection and exhibits, discounts on events including their Sunday music series, and free entry for events like the Phillips After 5, among many other perks.

I recently became a member of the Kennedy Center, which only cost $60 for the year.  In return I have access to pre-sale tickets for all performances, Book of Mormon summer 2013 here I come!

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Another wonderful arts organization that my husband and I are seriously considering a subscription for is the Folger Shakespeare Theater.  This is such an impressive little theater.  It is in the style of an Elizabethan era theater, it's small and intimate, and the actors regularly use the audience area as part of the performance.  I have seen three shows in this theater so far, a Winter's Tale, Othello, and Cyrano.  All of these shows were superb, Cyrano was particularly well done.  A subscription will get you tickets to three shows, and you get to select your preferred seating area and night of the week for your tickets.  There is a young professional option if you are under 35 which only costs $105, not bad for three amazing shows a year.  If you don't want the full commitment of a subscription you can choose to be a member instead.  An individual membership is $75 and will provide you discounts on tickets, access to exclusive programs as well as behind the scenes events.

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I love the arts, and I am at a point in my life where I feel I can and should support these organizations that provide such wonderful and unique experiences.  I also have friends who have devoted their lives to the arts and whose jobs depend on donations and memberships.  It might seem like an indulgence to have memberships and subscriptions to these places, but I feel what I will get in return will be worth much more than I will give.  

I admit that until now I myself did not actually realize how inexpensive and easy it can be to support one of these places, so I am assuming many of you may not have realized either.  I strongly encourage you, if there are any organizations or programs that you are interested in, to look into the different ways you can support it.  You might be surprised at how little they ask for and what benefits they might offer in return. I know I now fully intend to purchase a Phillips Collection membership for myself so that I can view those masterful works anytime I wish.  

Are any of you members of an arts or theater organization?  What perks do you get?  What other organizations do you donate to?

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