How to Be a Better Philadelphian: Support the Arts

Show Off Van Gogh
Want to prove your love for the Art Museum (and writing a check for the new Frank Gehry-designed main building expansion just isn’t enough)? Sign up to become a guide. Training is tough but worth it: For 18 months, candidates attend weekly sessions on art appreciation, art history and the Museum’s collections; they then spend another year as intern guides. By the time you’re giving tours on your own, you’ll be an expert on the Museum’s more than 225,000 works of art. 215-763-8100,

Friends of the Free Library of Philadelphia
When the Street administration cut Free Library staff and hours in 2005, the Friends waged a six-month battle to have funding increased. Subsequently, $3.5 million was added to the library budget.

DO: Join the Friends group at your neighborhood branch (or start one, if one doesn’t exist).

GIVE: Money to fund programs like Books for Friends, which gives free books to hospitals and seniors. 215-567-4562,

The Free Library Foundation
Headed by Linda Johnson, the foundation is raising dough for the Central Library expansion.

DO: Assist at Central Branch author events (and hear writers like John Updike and Alice McDermott discuss their work).

GIVE: A generous gift to the Central Library project. Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar through April 30th. 215-567-7710,

The Big Picture Alliance
Help discover the next Scorcese. This group uses filmmaking to aid disadvantaged kids.

DO: Pitch in to prep for the April 2008 film festival, at which the Alliance will show a retrospective of films made over the past 13 years.

GIVE: $10,000 to fund a semester-long program at a high school of your choice — 25 students get to work with professional filmmakers to create their own feature-length film. 610-383-6000,

Serving more than 15,000 people a year, Art-Reach works with museums and theaters to bring the arts to special-needs audiences.

DO: Share your love for the arts by becoming an Art-Reach ambassador.

GIVE: $50 so 25 schoolchildren, seniors, or individuals with disabilities can attend a live show at the Academy of Music or Kimmel Center. 215-568-2115,

Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
Attention, legal sharks: Lend your services to this group, which provides pro bono legal assistance and business counseling to artists and cultural organizations.

DO: Use your law degree on telephone consults or during one-on-one clinics to help artists.

GIVE: Money. Each dollar donated provides more than $100 in legal services to artists. 215-545-3385,

The Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia
The Alliance helps support more than 100 local theater companies and organizes an annual night of free theater for all.

DO: Apply to serve as a nominator for the Barrymore awards (Philly’s version of the Tonys).

GIVE: A friend an Alliance gift certificate, good for tickets at local companies. 215-413-7150,

Settlement Music School
In its Queen Street headquarters and five other branch schools, Settlement oversees music lessons for 15,000 students of all ages each year. The goal: to make sure all with note-worthy dreams can pursue them, regardless of financial ability.

DO: Serve on the board of the branch nearest you.

GIVE: $1,000 pays for a year of lessons for a student. 215-320-2600,

Mural Arts Program
Since its creation in 1984, Jane Golden’s colorful program has produced more than 2,700 murals. Mural Arts offers arts education and a program to help adjudicated youth.

DO: Reserve your trolley seat for a city mural tour.

GIVE: $250 and up to become a Master Muralist Member. (Murals cost from $10,000 to $15,000 to produce.) 215-685-0750,

Philadelphia Museum of Art
The museum is home to more than 225,000 works of art, undertakes extensive art conservation projects, and brings culture to all with pay-what-you-wish Sundays. The new Perelman Building opened with fanfare in September. With director Anne D’Harnoncourt at the helm, next up is a main-building expansion to be designed by Frank O. Gehry.

DO: Get the Museum’s art appreciation training so you can be a museum guide.

GIVE: $35-$175 for annual membership, or $100,000 to fully equip the Wachovia Education Resource Center at the new Perelman Building. 215-684-7750,

The Philadelphia Orchestra
These superstars-in-the-classical-world musicians play everything from Mozart to music from West Side Story, at the Kimmel, the Mann Center in summer, and, yes, Carnegie Hall.

DO: Head to an area classroom to prep students who’ll be attending one of the Orchestra’s student concerts.

GIVE: $75 to $2,500 for annual fund membership (because ticket sales cover less than 50 percent of operating costs). 215-893-1900,

Colonial Theatre
With an entertainment history that dates back to 1903, this theater got its 15 minutes in the 1958 movie The Blob. Annual BlobFests today draw national attention to Phoenixville. Saved from the wrecking ball by a community group, the Colonial now presents new releases, classics, art films and live shows.

DO: Sell tickets or be an usher (and get to see the show free).

GIVE: $100 keeps the theater’s utilities for another day. 610-917-1228,