The cherry blossoms are blooming and with that, a sign that the bi-yearly wave of arts and cultural centers galas and benefit’s are arriving in time for the festive spring season. Arts galas, or spring flings, happenings, parties, award shows, benefits, or whatever you want to call them—are the major fundraiser event of the year for institutions and typically honors their programs, artists, and prime supporters.
The event is often catered to appeal to high-dollar donors and accounts for a major portion of a development team’s fundraising efforts. Most large institutions sell tables only (as in no individual tickets) to their galas and usually with table prices around $10,000 no less. The steep price sends a direct message on who they want to be in the room that evening and who is able to be. The rooms at these functions promote exclusivity but also usually include key leaders, donors, and if the institution is large enough, society figures. For all of us art administrators who have worked or helped out at their own organization's benefit, you’ve seen first-hand the power and energy present when a crowd of eager, arts-minded leaders come together to celebrate and support a community they believe in. The room is often electric and the money raised in a matter of minutes during an in-room ask—sometimes a tremendous amount—is really exciting to be part of or witness.
Although, most of us are unable to afford the ticket price of some of the larger, more star-studded affairs (cough Met Gala cough), it doesn’t mean we should be left out of these events. There are still plenty of accessible opportunities to support organizations either through festive and fun galas or young patron programs. Although working in the arts comes with a lot of benefits, the pay disparities are widely known and discussed. It’s quite difficult to allocate money in our budget to justify spending a lot of cash on a social function or experience, so ultimately you have to spend what you are comfortable with. To help you navigate the gala scene—first, we’ve outlined some key benefits to investing in the support of institutions in this way and then we chose a few organizations with affordable ticket prices for you to support:
Benefits of splurging for an arts benefit:
Provide incredible networking opportunities - We already mentioned this- these functions are often full of the biggest leaders in the field packed into one room. Pick a gala with individual tickets and a seated dinner and come ready to chat with people who likely care about the same things you do-and likely have the money to give towards it.
Way to further connect with a community you want to be a part of - Similar to the networking potential, these events provide a sense of community and union that can be inspiring to tap into and a great way to learn about other organizations and initiatives with overlapping missions.
Learn deeper about an organization - Since all the major supporters are in the room, each institution puts on an event that best reflects their mission, goals, and projects. This can mean different things for different types of organizations, but expect to learn about what’s important to them.
A fun-festive way to support a cause or organization - The goal of these events from an organizational perspective is to raise money. Attend knowing that your ticket fee and participation are supporting a mission you believe in (and have so much fun doing it)!
Impact - When it comes to giving, keeping impact at the front of your mind will ensure that your monies are valued as much as the hard work it took you to earn it. Choosing a smaller non-profit or grassroots organization with a leaner operating budget will help fulfill their fundraising goal faster and often the direct impact is more visible.
Upcoming Gala’s with more affordable ticket prices:
The Bushwick Starr presents: The 9th Annual BIG GREEN THEATER Festival
Created in collaboration with Superhero Clubhouse the evening includes a performance of plays written by Bushwick elementary school students at PS75 + PS239 and a pre-show sunset reception on the Starr's patio with open bar, light bites, garden crafts & auction; Friday, April 26, 2019, 6:30PM - $50
BAM (After Party)
An after party celebration and the closing of the 2019 BAM Art Auction, hosted by the BAM Young Producers. Evening features an open bar and special performances by Raja Feather Kelly, Darrell Thorne, Coyle Girelli, Stuart Meyers and benefits artists; Wednesday, May 15, 9 PM - $150
Center for Performance Research
An evening of performances and tribute honoring Sidra Bell; Monday, May 13 - $50 Artist / $150 - Friend
The Artist Co-op Spring Happening
A quarterly event to showcase member’s talent, the event brings together art patrons and to meet artists making things happen in the city. Ticket includes 6 performances ranging from dance, video, theater, music, and more, as well as food; Saturday, May 11 - $25 ticket / $50 VIP
Storm King Art Center Summer Solstice Party
Enjoy signature cocktails, a delicious three-course meal, private tours, and viewings of their major exhibitions, Mark Dion: Follies and Outlooks: Jean Shin; Saturday, June 22 - $125
Pioneer Work’s Village Fete After Party: Hailu Mergia & Chances with Wolves
Features special performances by Hailu Mergia, Chances with Wolves, DJ Val-Inc, and surprise musical acts and activations throughout the space plus open bars, food trucks in the garden. The After Party directly benefits Pioneer Works’ mission of building community through the arts and sciences; Saturday, April 27 - $200
Independent Curators International 3rd Annual Independents Spring Benefit
Hosted by Paula Naughton at James Cohan Gallery; Tuesday, May 28 - $150