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TBT: Fine Art and Free Drinks

This post makes me nostalgic for the Before Times. I think we can all agree, at this point, that there are no good virtual substitutes for going to a show or drinking with friends. Virtual museum tours and Zoom happy hours are the instant Nescafé of fun. It's still enjoyable to listen to recorded music, watch movies, and read books at home, but there are some activities that I'll wait to resume when it's worth it--when humans and artworks can mingle in meatspace again.

Way, way back in the day, not just before the pandemic but even more so before parenthood, my husband and I reveled in real-life experiences of art. We went to gallery openings and closings to encounter sculptures and paintings the good old-fashioned way. We interacted with art, walked around it, caught it from different angles, smelled it, touched it when appropriate, heard the way our footsteps echoed in the space, chatted with others about it face-to-face, and stood in awe of the mind-blowing difference between seeing a high-quality reproduction of a piece printed on paper and witnessing it directly with our bare eyeballs. It's like standing beneath a rainbow vs. seeing a picture of one on Instagram--not the same thing at all.

When you physically go to a live exhibit or performance, as the audience, you become part of the experience for everyone else there. You feed into the interpretation and the vibe while you absorb energies from everyone else there, in an organic feedback loop. Back when my husband and I were quirky young punks, we experienced art in so many different moods. Sometimes we were drunk jackasses blowing off steam and engaging in theatrical humor. Sometimes we went quietly, with reverent curiosity. Sometimes we got sentimental and sloppy and dramatic. And it was always moving, exciting, and mind-and-mood-altering. Experiencing art firsthand, among lots of other people who are sharing the alchemical mix of human responses, cannot be replicated remotely.

So until humanity achieves victory over COVID-19, I'll look forward to savoring firsthand experiences of art and absurdity in the future and reminisce about past experiences like those in the post below.

Fine Art and Free Drinks

Enjoy a stimulating night on the town with artists and intellectuals. Drink wine and eat fancy hors d'oeuvres... for free! Art show opening and closing receptions make perfect dates or girls' nights out, for the lady with low funds and high tastes. Anyone can attend. Check out the listings in your local newspaper for gallery events.


Last night, we went to the opening show for the work of our friends Lisa Truax and Ben Clore at the Lansing Art Gallery. We drank wine, munched on roasted red pepper hummus and lemon cookies with strawberries, and discussed the artworks with their creators and other viewers. Reflecting on abstract art and learning about the process of creation is a nice escape from the mundane worries of everyday life. It can be relaxing, exciting, thought-provoking, transcendental... or just a fun excuse to get out of the house.

Dressing up for these events is half of the fun. Sadly, my camera is broken, and I have no photos of last night's reception. But let me tell you. My husband appreciates the finer things, and he mainly goes to these shindigs for the lady-watching. Our artistic friends are sharp dressers. Lisa shimmered in a pleated mini-dress that looked like a Chinese watercolor painting, from Neiman Marcus Last Call Clearance Center. ($40 for a $300 dress. Score!) I wore a floaty silk wrap skirt ($4 from a clearance rack at the mall) with a chocolate brown satin halter top ($6 on sale) and thrift shop high-heeled sandals. My husband wore a polo shirt, shorts, and flip-flops that showed off his silver-and-pink pedicure. Magnifique!

Artsy folks are the most fun to hang out with. My husband was raised by theater people and, well, it shows. Most creative types have a great sense of humor and spontaneity. Last fall, we attended one of the openings at Kresge dressed in our Halloween costumes. The artists dressed up in funny costumes as well. Oh, and did I mention there was free booze? Always. My dear husband reenacted the Britney Spears meltdown of 2008, and I appeared in the guise of another great artist of our time, Amy Winehouse.

Ah, the glamor of the starving artist lifestyle! If you can't get enough of it, whip out your student ID (or find yourself a student friend) and get some discount tickets to a performance of La Boheme (one of my favorites)! Here we are dressed up to see La Boheme at the Wharton Center on MSU's campus, spring 2007, when I still had a graduate student ID.


We scored student tickets at $15 a pop and sat in some of the best seats, right near the orchestra, beside an older couple who had lived in France and seen this opera eight times. The performance at the Wharton Center was so excellent, our neighbor said it was one of the best he had ever seen. I cried my mascara all over my face during "Mi chiamano Mimi" in the first act.

No need to wait until someday in the future, when you have money, to cultivate an appreciation for the arts. High art has always existed in the domain of the poor and fabulous.

Come vivo? Vivo!

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