Cheap and Easy

I give it away. I’m more than cheap and easy…I’m free. Sorry, Mom, probably not what you wanted to hear.

Volunterring at Blue Line Arts
Tony Natsoulas and Wendy Nagle Installing an Exhibit – Photo by Lang Lew

I volunteer… a lot.

Wednesday I offered to help a friend install his first solo show. After arriving and finding there was considerable framing to do, I realized what I thought would be a 3-hour job was going to take all day. It was a 7-hour affair… and I was so grateful.

It might help if you had a little back-story. In the “olden days,” when I limped off the corporate battlefield several years ago, I realized I didn’t know the art industry as thoroughly as I’d hoped. Since I yearned for a well-rounded education, I volunteered – doing everything I could – so I could learn the business inside and out. Rather than enroll in more college courses, I’d earn this education with sweat, sore muscles and the uncertainty of new experiences.

Helping Vinay Sharma and Tesia Blackburn Install
  • I installed numerous shows – which eventually led to some curating.
  • I wrote press releases.
  • I helped with judging shows – mostly carrying clipboards, counting pieces and keeping my opinion to myself!
  • I did a lot of marketing work.
  • I put together teams of artists for special projects.
  • I took down exhibits – big ones, small ones, all kinds, all places.
  • I worked in the museum gift store, helped with museum evaluations and cleaned boogers off the walls in the kids’ wing.
  • I taught kids to paint watercolour in the park.
  • I painted walls, scrapped gunk, assisted where ever and whenever I could. And I learned so much more than art. (click to Tweet)
David Peterson and Friend – Carmichael Park

I never realized how many wonderful people I’d meet, how many solid relationships would be built, how much I could be appreciated or how much I’d appreciate others. I never knew the treasures I would find when I first said, “I’ll help you.” I’ve had the opportunity to work with smart, accomplished, people.

In helping others, I’ve helped myself beyond anything I could’ve imagined. (click to Tweet)

Blue Line Arts Install – Yep…on my butt – Photo Lang Lew


Besides being an extra pair of hands, I’ve made connections and created opportunities for myself, and for others. Through giving of my time and efforts, I’ve learned a lot about the arts, the art industry, my community and myself. It’s been a priceless education. What’s more, I find if I keep giving, it keeps giving. Wednesday, after my nearly 8 hours of “installation” I walked away feeling full and blessed.

I received the priceless gifts of connection, of camaraderie, of finding my tribe. These are the things I’ve been given by giving. (click to Tweet)

The Arthouse on R Tribe

If it’s been a while for you, if you haven’t rolled up your sleeves lately, consider doing something to help your arts community. It has its own rewards. Be cheap and easy…it’s fun…and your mother will probably, eventually, be proud.

Some local places to volunteer:

Crocker Art Museum

Blue Line Arts

Sacramento Fine Arts Center

Verge Center for the Arts

SMAC – Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission

Keep Givin’ It Away!




Michelle Andres is a writer, artist and coach who nudges, nay, shoves, her clients in the direction of their dreams, helping them to overcome non-productive behaviours and enjoy more success in their lives.Writer, Artist, Coach

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6 Replies to “Cheap and Easy”

  1. Michelle this is so timely. Especially in summer! We have a group that is always needing volunteers, and gets them…but not me. Why? Well because I’m decrepit! Really. And can’t drive at night when most of the work is done.

    BUT.. that doesn’t prevent me from taking food to the opening. (Would I miss that? Nope. I drag along one of my kids to drive me because it’s at night also, of course.)

    Also, I have just signed up to be a Moderator of a web forum… I am one of six moderators chosen. This means staying on top of the chatter, and dealing with trolls and troublemakers, and keeping the discussion on topic. It is a big forum with a lot of activity. But I am so happy that I can do that while I’m checking my email, and updating my website, which I do daily. I found something I could do. And YES YES YES, I am learning so much and finding soulmates as well.

    I found, for instance, a fellow who thinks of music as colors, and wants to do some work with both, called “phasing”. The technical engineering of same is way over my head, but I’m “getting” the idea by working on this forum.

    Good for you. People can find what they ARE able to do, and it might only be bringing the paper plates! It all helps.

    1. Susan, you ARE volunteering – in so many ways. It takes such a huge effort to maintain a healthy arts community. There are all sorts of facets you can help with…and, congratulations, it sounds like you’ve found them! I’ve heard of that phenomenon where music has colour or numbers have tastes. It’s called “synesthesia” and it’s incredibly intriguing. Enjoy your work. I’m sure you’ll moderate beautifully! Thanks for your comment. ~m

  2. Love this one Michelle. We always think volunteering is for helping others when in fact we get much more out of it ourselves.

    1. How right you are, Judy!!! Many of the things I’ve received from volunteering are priceless. Simply. Priceless. Continue to do your own good work, friend!

  3. Yes. Volunteering is critical to the function of so many nonprofit organizations. Arts volunteering is so fun, and a regular reliable volunteer is a valuable asset.

    As rewarding as it is, considering upping the ante: there are critical needs in organizations that serve the poor. These are life changers for both recipients and volunteers, and also very fun!

    One time we were distributing food in the mountains of West Virginia (Beckley, if you are familiar with the region). We were short of help and got recipients to help distribute as well as helping to carry bags to family’s cars.

    At the end of the event a volunteer who enlisted on site said, “I come to these events looking for whatever I could get–today was no different. But after helping, all I want to do is give, give, GIVE!” Whoa!

    Changed hearts are changed lives. Giving is a great power.

    1. James, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. You bring very salient points to the table. There is so much change our “giving” can do…for everyone.

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