Stage & Dance

The price is right

Our two favorite out-of-town cheapie art joints

1. The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, where admission to the permanent collection is always free, though a $4 donation is asked if you can afford it. 2035 South Third Street, Louisville. (502) 634-2700. www.speedmuseum.org.

2. The Cincinnati Art Museum, where admission is free because somebody rich has underwritten it. 953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati. (513) 639-2995. www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org.

Art like it was free — and it is

The permanent collection at The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky contains about 4,000 pieces; they're shown on a rotating basis on the museum's second floor. Unlike some of the special exhibits that visit the museum, this fabulous collection is free to see. (And here's a super fact: The museum's major exhibits are typically ticketed events but can be viewed for free on Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m.) Another plus, every first Wednesday of the month, guest lecturers discuss current exhibitions or the permanent collection for, yup that's right, absolutely nothing. The museum is in the Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose Street. (859) 257-5716. www.uky.edu/artmuseum.

The Lexington Art League has four exhibition and project spaces around town that are all free. The exhibits change, so check www.lexingtonartleague.org or call (859) 254-7024 for the scoop on who is showing what when. The spaces are:

■ LAL @ Loudoun House and the LAL Project Space, 209 Castlewood Drive. In January, the Loudoun House will host the phenomenally popular Nude International exhibit. Also worth noting: Artists, curators and educators speak about the current exhibits every second Thursday of the month at the Loudoun House. That's a free ticket, too.

■ LAL @ DAC, in the Downtown Arts Center, 141 East Main Street.

■ LAL @ the Mayor's Office, 12th floor of the Government Center, 200 East Main Street.

The pretty darn clever team-player approach to theater-going thrift

A Studio Players membership, at $10 a year, gets you one free ticket to one show each season. Or, hey, bring a group of 10 and everybody gets in for $10 apiece. One more thought: Ask about an opportunity to see shows for free in exchange for ushering or working on a show. For information go to www.studioplayers.org or e-mail bsingleton@att.net. Studio Players' Carriage House Theatre is at 154 West Bell Court.

The single best location to hang out and accidentally run into soul nourishment

The University of Kentucky School of Music, which presents more than 200 public concerts, recitals and lectures each year. Most are free, and this includes master classes with international artists to pre-doctoral student recitals, faculty performances, national competitions and scholar lectures. You can even sit in on the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Wow.

Looks for free concerts by the UK Wind Ensemble and Symphony and Concert Bands every spring and fall. Or the several free concerts each semester by the UK Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Lab Band, Percussion Ensemble and Saxophone Ensembles. UK Opera Theatre performs several free concerts each semester. And the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music offers a series of free public concerts featuring old-time and bluegrass traditional music at noon most Fridays of the fall semester. The complete calendar is at www.uky.edu/FineArts/Music, or call (859) 257-4900.

While we're talking about UK, there's tons of free stuff, arts and otherwise, going on there. For a calendar of university events, visit http://uktoday.uky.edu.

One more thing

Every year, Smithsonian Magazine hosts Museum Day in September. Museums around the nation provide free admission to everyone. Locally, the Headley-Whitney, Kentucky Horse Park and Kentucky Historical Society have all participated. All you have to do is check back later in the year and download an admission card from www.smithsonianmag.com.

The film festival fiesta for the frugal

The Southern Circuit Film Series runs Feb. 21, March 28 and April 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. Started as a way to give local filmmakers a chance to interact with noted independent directors, it's grown and is free for the watching and learning. At the Lexington Public Library, 140 East Main Street. For more information, visit www.lexarts.org.

Maestro! Cue the economic and cultural conundrum.

It seems that as times go bad, people need art to make them feel better. The worse the times, the more we need it.

Why else would President Franklin Roosevelt have put artists to work for the Works Progress Administration during in the 1930s or had Woody Guthrie write songs about its dams? Why else did Roosevelt's New Deal finance 225,000 free concerts for audiences of 150 million Americans or employ actors to appear in stage productions all over the country? Why else did he have artists paint murals on countless public buildings or buy half a million pieces of art for display in American museums?

Not just to put artists to work, but to make American just plain happy to be alive.

But — and here's the conundrum part — when times are bad, the art-consumer usually has little money to pay for the very thing that will save him or her. And yet the arts need money to stay open.

What to do?

(Hit Pause. We know you're thinking this is a story about how you need to set aside some money for the arts in your limited budget. It would be, if you didn't already know that. Besides, we did that story on Sunday; go to LexGo.com to find it. Hit Start again.)

Again, what to do?

Take this time to sample — with our helpful guidance — the very best and truly thrifty offerings made by Lexington and regional arts providers who are doing their part to keep your soul fed, with little or no cost to you.

They are doing it because they know how truly important art is and because they're such nice people.

And remember, when times are better, you owe them.e_SClBThe single best and cheapest bonanza event of the year

Arts Showcase Weekend. Scheduled for Feb. 6 to 8, it offers something like 35 free events, in which all the area's arts put out a veritable buffet of dance, theater, music and exhibits so novices can gorge at will. Scheduled for several venues around the city, it's a sampling served up by most everybody who does things for free. For details, which are still being ironed out, visit www.lexarts.org or call (859) 255-2951.

Our favorite three usual suspects for a low or no-cost left-brain lift

1. Check out the library for books, videos and $1 DVD rentals. To find the nearest branch, call (859) 231-5520 or visit www.lexpublib.org.

2. Stores that let you sample CDs before you buy. Both Joseph-Beth Booksellers and Barnes & Noble Booksellers do that.

3. Free song downloads on iTunes. Three, including one Latin music selection, usually are made available each Tuesday.

A great suggestion for the thrifty do-it-yourself consumer of art

Balancing Act, now through April 30. This outdoor sculpture walk in downtown Lexington features 10 sculptures by nine regional artists that are within easy walking distance of each other with an assist from a map available at Triangle Park, ArtsPlace or www.lexarts.org.

The five-time best cost-conscious event for those who socialize and nosh

Gallery Hop, scheduled for five dates in the coming year (for starters, it's Feb. 20, April 17 and June 19), all from 5 to 8 p.m. Hop or skip from gallery to gallery, most of them downtown and each offering a new exhibit to delight and amaze. It's completely free. For exact locations and details, go to www.lexarts.org or call (859) 255-2951.

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