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Culture on the cheap; There are bargains to be had for area productions, concerts and galleries

The arts are for everyone. How often have we thrilled to those words?

But how often, at the same time, have we wished we had more money for plays, classical music concerts and gallery admissions?

To borrow some words from the Bard, let us not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. If you love the arts, and you want to enjoy arts events, you don't need to be as rich as Gatsby.

Here is another side of arts funding cuts: With traditional funding sources threatened, arts organizations are trying, more than ever before, to please you, the consumer. They want to nurture our taste for music, drama and painting.

They are also trying new avenues to reach a wider audience.

Most cultural entities offer discounts for students with ID. Seniors also can usually count on discounts.

And for the rest of us, deals abound.

All of us can start on our path to affordable arts by signing on to local deal sites such as www.sweetfind.com, www.livingsocial.com or www.groupon.com. Every day, these sites e-mail you a deal and you are allowed a day or two to take them up on it. The last six months have seen offers for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Screening Room, the Kavinoky Theatre, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Darwin Martin House.

Many cultural entities, such as the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, have Facebook pages. Click "Like" and they will keep in touch about discounts and specials.

Watch for coupons in Gusto and in coupon books such as the Entertainment Book.

It pays, also, simply to know what is going on. Here is a quick guide to the local arts scene and how you can join in, at a bargain:

>Classical music

The New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini recently said, "There is more free classical music than any other art form." He is right.

Student concerts are free at the University at Buffalo, and watch also for free concerts at Fredonia State, Canisius College and other schools.

*UB's Brown Bag concerts could be the best deal in town. Not only do you enjoy a free hour of music, but you get free Tim Hortons coffee (bring your own lunch), plus two free tickets to an upcoming UB Music Department concert -- a concert you would ordinarily pay for. The next Brown Bag concert is April 5 at 12:05 p.m. in 105 Slee Hall. For info on UB events, call 645-2921.

*Concerts at churches are often free or bargain-priced, and you can pretend you are in Europe. These include free lunch concerts at St. Paul's Cathedral, at the corner of Church and Pearl streets downtown, every Friday at noon, featuring local and visiting soloists.

*Concerts by the accomplished Buffalo singing group Harmonia are free (although a $10 donation is requested). Harmonia, which sings everything from the Renaissance to rock, next sings at 7:30 p.m. April 8 at Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, 96 Jewett Parkway. (Another freebie: You get to admire the church's Tiffany windows.)

*The Buffalo Chamber Music Society brings in the world's top chamber groups at a bargain $20. You get the glamour of the Mary Seaton Room in Kleinhans Music Hall, with a preconcert talk and cash bar. In addition, three Gift to the Community concerts are offered every year. Watch for them next fall.

*A Musical Feast, a series led by former BPO concertmaster Charles Haupt, offers an intriguing mix of classics and new music in the Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave. Admission is normally $10, but the next concert, 2 p.m. April 10, is free. For information, call 878-6011 or visit www.amusicalfeast.com.

*The bargain-priced Friends of Vienna features mostly Buffalo-based performers, although occasionally they import talent. Tickets are $8; $6 for students; $1 for children under 12. Concerts take place at Unity Church, 1243 Delaware Ave., with refreshments afterward in the Viennese tradition. The next Friends of Vienna concert is May 22, featuring Jonathan Golove, cello; Donna Lorenzo, viola; and Yuki Numata, violin.

>Visual art

*The Albright-Knox offers free admission from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on M&T First Fridays, the first Friday of every month. Special events, workshops, classes and lectures are often included, though some cost an additional fee of $5 or $10. April 1, the next free Friday, includes a free "What's Your Vision?" tour at 4 p.m. and a Jazz and Happy Hour at 5:30 p.m. in the cafe.

*Art show openings offer not only free art viewing but refreshments and a chance to meet the artists. Watch Gusto for upcoming openings.

*Gallery hop. You don't need to have deep pockets to view art for sale in a gallery. It's fine, and free, to go inside just to look.

A good place to start: Dana Tillou Fine Arts, 417 Franklin St. Tillou's collection reaches from the 1700s to the present day. He specializes in 19th and 20th century traditional art, including landscapes and still lifes. He also has objets d'art of all periods. "There are surprises in here," Tillou says. "I have Chinese and Japanese art. American folk art. I have very diverse collections." His displays change constantly. "People are amazed at what comes in here."

Tillou regrets that some people seem too shy to walk in and browse.

"People at parties have told me, 'Oh, I'm afraid to come in your place,' " he says with a laugh. "They hesitate, because I'm not like a storefront. That's probably held me back a little. It's an imposing building." Inside, it's not. "We're not a hard sell. We let people look."

Don't be shy. Venture inside. Other galleries to check out: Benjaman's Art Gallery, 419 Elmwood Ave. (886-0898), Brian Art Galleries (717 Elmwood Ave., 883-7599).

>Theater and dance

If you're not a student, a senior or a subscriber, theater in Buffalo can be pricey. There are bargains, however.

*The Paul Robeson Theatre, 350 Masten Ave., normally charges $25 to $30 for tickets. But go to its website, www.africancultural.org, click on "Friday Night Special," and you can print out a coupon allowing you to buy two tickets for Cheryl West's "Jar the Floor" for $40, good for any of four Fridays starting April 30. Call 884-2013 to learn more.

*UB's Department of Theatre and Dance offers professional-caliber productions at a bargain rate of $18. But what if even that is too much?

Then it's time for the department's Poor Theatre. There are two productions a year, which UB describes as "fully rehearsed plays directed by faculty with minimal production budgets." Tickets are $5 at the door. The next Poor Theatre production is Beth Henley's "Crimes of the Heart." It's at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in UB North Campus' Ellicott Complex, 8 p.m. April 15 and 16 and 2 p.m. April 17.

*UB's Zodiaque Dance Company performances are $10. The troupe performs next April 28 to May 1 at the Black Box Theatre in UB's Center for the Arts.

*Niagara University is nationally known for its theater and dance department, making Niagara University Theatre productions, which range from ancient Greek dramas to contemporary hits, a bargain at $12. There are five productions a year. Two are left this season. April 1-3, it's "How I Learned to Drive." From April 21-May 8, it's Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance." Both are at the Leary Theater on the campus of NU. Call 286-8685.

>Literary arts

*The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums, 220 North St. and 453 Porter Ave., are always free. Hours are Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. On display through April 27 at the Porter Avenue location is an exhibit relating to Mark Twain. The North Street location features manuscripts related to the Adams family of patriots -- John Adams, John Quincy Adams and beer namesake Samuel Adams. For information, call 885-4139.

*The unique Western New York Book Arts, 468 Washington St. at Mohawk Street, collaborates with other local entities to explore printing, illustration, bookmaking and other paper-related arts. Exhibits are free. On display through April 2: "Poems & Pictures: A Renaissance in the Art of the Book (1946-1981)," on its last stop of a three-city tour. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.

*Just Buffalo's Babel series brings noted authors to Buffalo to lecture at Kleinhans Music Hall (next up is Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat, 8 p.m. Friday. Admission is normally $35, but students pay only $10, and anyone can get a discount just by presenting a Buffalo and Erie County Public Library card. Call 832-5400 for info.

e-mail: mkunz@buffnews.com

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