Fine Arts Program Expands Reach to Needy Families
When a family is hard-pressed to buy food and pay rent, the cost of tickets for a live performance is far outside of the realm of the possible. Yet, a ticket to a visual or performing arts concert at the Fine Arts Center is so much more than a night of entertainment. It is a venue for improving mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Through its Angel Tickets program, the Fine Arts Center is committed to making live performances available to those who have no financial resources to purchase tickets possible. Starting in 2000 with 12 nonprofit organizations participating, the program that distributes free tickets has now grown to 39 different agencies from Hampshire, Hampden, and Franklin counties.
The late Joyce E. Smar founded the program when she served as program director at the Fine Arts Center. Before she lost her battle with cancer, she and her husband, Benedict J. Smar, retired from the music department at UMass Amherst, started an endowment for the program in 2005. “She felt Angel Tickets was important enough to be sustained over time,” recalls Smar. The endowment now stands at $41,000.
Smar says the program has wide and deep benefits for participants and donors who help subsidize the cost of the free tickets. The participants are uplifted by a live performance and feel connected to their community by attending a concert at one of the region’s premier concert halls. “I continue to support the Angel Ticket program because I think it is incredibly important and I want to make a difference,” says Smar.
“Live performances elevate the soul and allow you to be entertained in a way you don’t get when you watch something on TV.” —Tracey Levy of the Amherst Survival Center
Though the number of participants has grown, the impact remains the same. “Live performances elevate the soul and allow you to be entertained in a way you don’t get when you watch something on TV,” says Tracey Levy, program director for the Amherst Survival Center, which provides an array of services to community members from a hot lunch to a medical clinic.
She says one of her greatest pleasures is posting notices at the survival center about free tickets. “The expression on people’s faces when they learn they have free concert tickets is priceless,” says Levy.
The Angel Tickets program is part of the Fine Arts Center’s Arts/Access initiatives. The center sponsors more than 100 free outreach programs each year, including preshow talks with renowned artists, artist-in-residency workshops, and master classes. “We expose, engage, educate, and inspire,” says John Ebbets, director of development for the Fine Arts Center.