Arts and Entertainment For the Budget-Minded Aficionado

During a recession, people tend to cut back on their arts and entertainment spending. But the arts are life-enriching, and entertainment is crucial during difficult financial times. Here are some inexpensive ideas for cultural pursuits.

Films look best on the big screen. If you crave a theatrical release when it's actually released, go to matinees. Seniors can get a big discount on tickets.

More tips:

-Single-screen theaters and theaters on the edge of cities tend to charge less for tickets.

-Check out your Park & Recreation Department during the summer. Many fund free outdoor movie nights.

-If you or someone you know has projection equipment, hold a movie night in your back yard. Throw a potluck dinner and borrow some classic films from the library.

If live theater is on your list, try volunteering as an on-call usher. Training is minimal and most ushers get to see the show for free. The longer you usher, the more likely you'll get your pick of shows.

More tips:

-Local repertory companies generally charge less than bigger theatrical productions.

-Matinees and week nights are less expensive than weekends.

-Look for local theater groups that perform for free in public parks.

-Check your neighborhood library for free children's programs that include puppet shows, storytelling, and musical performances.

Large museum shows can be pricey but most every museum offers corporate-sponsored free days at least once a month. Check Web sites and do some research-it's not always readily available information. You can always call and find out, then mark every free day in your calendar and plan accordingly. This goes for children's museums and science museums too.

More tips:

-Small galleries hold openings for new artists' work and group shows. Get on their email lists.

-Street fairs will have on average, at least two booths full of decent art, and free craft demonstrations, which are entertaining.

-Volunteer as a docent in your favorite gallery or museum. You'll learn about art, the local art scene, and possibly get invitations to museum events.

A final tip: Your local college or university offers affordable arts programs and gallery shows.