I'm writing this week to ask for your help.
It isn't news that presenting the arts in even the most prosperous of times is a challenge. It also isn't news that our nation's economy is severely challenged. I'm asking you to weigh the value to your life of the arts, and to include them among your priorities at this difficult time.
I always hate it when someone wants to talk about money and the arts, because there are so many ways in which it is necessary to support them, and no matter what I decide to do with my support for them, there are artists and arts organizations which I believe in and want to support which I have to deny.
The St. Petersburg String Quartet will open the 2010-11 season for the Jamestown Concert Assn. on Oct. 22.
So I'm sympathetic if you're getting antsy and considering turning the page of your newspaper, but if you can stick with me for a little while, I would greatly appreciate it.
I once had a student who put forward the argument that she believed that when money became tight, people should stop donating money to churches. Churches exist to help people, she reasoned, so when things were tough, people should help themselves, and go back to supporting churches when things got better.
I asked her what would happen if churches couldn't pay their mortgages, and couldn't pay for heat and light, and couldn't make necessary repairs, and had to close their doors forever. She thought for a minute and said, ''That wouldn't happen.''
The trouble is, it could happen. And the same is true with our favorite arts organizations. The fact that we don't want it to happen, doesn't mean it won't.
Since time began, there have been people who have courted popularity by encouraging people's worst instincts. ''You've worked hard, so you deserve an expensive vacation, a long evening of alcohol consumption, expensive clothing, or whatever,'' they tell us, deeply hoping that we will concentrate on the things we want, and won't notice that we're supposed to hand over our hard-earned money to their resort, their brand of beer, their designer label, etc.
Nobody knows your financial situation better than you do. You need to strike the balance between what you want to do and what you can do. But, I'm guessing that if the arts aren't important to you, you're not reading this column, which is why I'm going on the assumption that keeping the arts alive is something you'd like to do, if you can.
The best thing you can do is to select the organizations which you most believe in, and support them as best you can. Make your decision according to quality, not according to who puts out the most effective ads. If you're a senior citizen, and a senior ticket is the best you can afford, then buy it, and bless you. If you're financially comfortable, buy a regular ticket. It will help the organization to stay alive. If you can afford to be a patron, a sponsor, etc., all the better.
We have a very nice selection of arts organizations here in Chautauqua County. I couldn't begin to name and describe them all. Each of them contributes to our high quality of life, and without any of them, we would be the less.
All of them are looking to sell their coming seasons of programming, by selling season tickets or season memberships for the 2010-11 season. Usually you save some money by purchasing the season, over what it would cost to buy individual tickets. But, of course you recognize that each of them needs to have some cash on hand, to build scenery or hire a performance hall or to pay artists to produce something you want to see or hear, before you show up to see or hear it.
I know that each year, members of the public tell them things such as ''I don't like your January concert, so I'll just buy tickets to the things I like.'' If that's the most you can afford, then fine, but you realize, you're pinching off the organization's life line of advance funds. If enough people pinch, they'll suffocate and be gone.
You have to feed a horse, even when you don't want to ride it, or it will be dead when you show up with your saddle. The same is true for our culture.
There are dozens upon dozens of organizations which are struggling for survival in our tough financial times. I want to tell you about three of the biggest, with apologies to all the others for which I don't have space or time.
If you're thinking, ''I only like the very best opera or the very best ballet or the very best theater, so I only give my money to the Met or to New York City Ballet or to the Lincoln Center Theater, please realize, you're like a person who likes to stand on the top step of a ladder, so he cuts away all the lower steps, and finds himself only one step above the ground.
Supporting the top is important, but recognizing how people get to the top is equally important.
There are so many things to support at Chautauqua, I could write pages and pages about them. The Fenton History Center is preserving who we are by preserving and exhibiting who we were. Our outstanding public libraries are the difference between an informed society and a mechanical society which conducts itself like a person driving with his eyes shut. The Robert H. Jackson Center brings us important programming and helps make our community's mark in our nation's history and culture by commemorating one of our area's most influential and significant individuals.
The theater programs at various colleges and public institutions are well worth your support. The music programs, including the Youth Orchestra and Infiniti, and the Children's Choir and the Guilders and the Drama Enrichment program and so very many more are all worthy organizations. Performing spaces such as the 1891 Opera House, the Reg Lenna Civic Center and opportunities such as the Youth Ballet, and...
I'm going to tell you about three of our area's biggest programs, with sincere and genuine regret that I can't possibly discuss them all. Please, do what you can for them. We realize that there is the same amount of wealth in our country as there was two years ago, although the form in which that wealth is found, has changed considerably. If life has been kind to you, try to do a bit more.
JAMESTOWN CONCERT ASSN.
The Jamestown Concert Assn. brings high quality musical artists to perform in our community. JCA has a tradition which goes back more than a century, and which once brought artists such as Sergei Rachmaninoff to local stages.
Those organizations which enable our own people to create art are important, and the organizations which give them a perspective against which to measure their creations are equally so.
This year, JCA will offer six public concerts. Two are by the Syracuse Symphony and four are by individuals or small ensembles. The symphonic concerts are performed at the Reg Lenna Civic Center, and the smaller concerts are performed in St. Luke's Episcopal Church, at the intersection of Fourth and Main Streets, in downtown Jamestown.
For many years, now, JCA and the Warren Concert Assn. have recognized the fact that their two communities are only a relatively short drive apart, so each of them has allowed the other organization's members to attend their performances for no additional cost. Join one of them and you get the opportunity to attend 12 public performances, which makes the cost per ticket almost negligible.
An adult membership, which admits you to as many of the 12 concerts as you wish, is $90. Those older than age 65 can buy a senior membership for $75. Even if you're going to be in Florida during two of the concerts, you can still go to all the rest and have a real bargain.
There are several levels of patronage, for those who are able to support them above and beyond the cost of tickets, for those who have been raised to respect their community and believe in their responsibility to carry the share of the weight which they have been blessed with resources to carry.
Here is the Jamestown program:
Warren Concerts will be I Musici de Montreal on Oct. 5, Hot 8 Brass Band, on Nov. 12, Babik - Gypsy Jazz Band on Oct. 22, A Leahy Family Christmas on Dec. 14, pianist Alpin Hong on Jan. 14, and the ABBA tribute group ABBA-Mania on Mar. 19.
Warren performances are held at the Struthers Library Theatre.
Contact JCA at 487-1522, or write to them at 315 N. Main St. - Suite 200, in Jamestown. Catch up with them on the web at www.jamestownconcertassociation.org.
LUCILLE BALL LITTLE THEATRE
Another local organization which goes back far into our community's past is the Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown.
LBLTJ follows a slightly different path than most of our other organizations. They still have one performance left in their 2009-10 season. If you buy an individual ticket to the Kander and Ebb/ Bob Fosse musical ''Chicago,'' and enjoy the performance, they'll sell you a season membership for the new season at a reduced rate.
They will perform ''Chicago'' seven times, between Oct. 8 and Oct. 17 at their own performing space on E. Second St., in downtown Jamestown. Check with them for curtain times and dates.
The new season offers three more Broadway Musicals, one light comedy, and one powerful drama, all of which have been made into award-winning feature films. See these:
Stop by the theater in person between 12:30p.m. and 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays. Phone them at 483-1095. Check them out by computer at www.designsmiths.net/lucilleball/
A season ticket is $65. Senior citizens pay $60, if they're older than 60. Students age 22 or younger pay $30 for the whole season. Single admissions are $20, but you can buy any three shows for $50.
Obviously, they are happy to accept patronage above and beyond these minimal costs.