Galas Are a Bunch of Bullshit

Art is, of course, the big draw.
Art is, of course, the big draw.

There's a billboard on 59 that advertises a free iPad 2 when you buy new windows. The iPad 2 is great. You can e-mail from it, and surf the Web. You can listen to music! I thought for a second that it would be really sweet to have a new iPad 2. And, I guess, some new fucking windows, but whatever. Free iPad 2! I can use Twitter on it!

Art nonprofit galas are a waste of money. Whatever your feelings about them, whether you think they do good to bring awareness to visual arts, bring people together and raise money, the fact remains that they are a waste. A gala requires time and money to put together, and a lot of it. That time and money would always be better spent on actual programming and better pay for the staff.

I know, you're all like, "But galas raise a ton of money, bro! You've got to spend money to raise money!" And here's where the bullshit starts.

Parties are nice things. They bring people with common interests together, and create special bonds between people and causes. You know what's nicer and builds better bonds? Supporting a thing you believe in. Donating money and time to something, and not expecting a party in your honor as a reward.

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When a business offers a free iPad 2, they do it because people act irrationally when there's a free iPad 2 involved. If I needed windows, I might actually go with the free iPad 2 place, even if they were $500 (the cost of an iPad 2) more expensive than another, possibly even more trustworthy window place. It makes no sense, but I want an iPad 2, so it makes sense to me. I don't care where the iPad 2 comes from. I want to look at YouTube videos of cats in small boxes.

The gala is the free iPad 2 you get when you donate to a good cause.

When you pay $1,000 to attend a gala, how much of that money is going to actually supporting the nonprofit, and how much is going to sending out clever invitations printed on fancy paper, overpriced jalapeño poppers, and the cost of renting an ornate ballroom with an '80s DJ and a life-size ice sculpture of Andy Warhol? Maybe a quarter of that $1,000? More?

On top of that, there's the issue of the stress that gets put on the staff of the nonprofit. Galas are put together by the people who work at the nonprofit, people who work hard already for very little pay, and you've got them on the phone with the caterer making decisions about cheese.

This all really amounts to a public service announcement, but really. Stop supporting galas, and start supporting nonprofits.

When you get the invite in the mail, write a check for the amount of a ticket, and send it to them as a donation. Shit, write it for 75 percent of the ticket price. Double shit, go down and volunteer some time, too. And don't expect a handy for being a caring person.

You're not buying new windows for your house, you're helping a cause you believe in continue to exist. If you need validation for this, take a walk through whatever arts institution you're supporting, and marvel at the reality that it actually fucking exists.

It's people like yourself that make it happen.

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