1. Buy your ticket and watch a live performance. While it’s always a pleasure to receive complimentary tickets, it’s different when you actually go out of your way to book and buy your own tickets. Your ticket purchase ensures that the artists will survive. Even in this age of YouTube and video streaming, nothing compares to a live performance, with you in the theater and watching the show. There’s this exchange of energy between the performers and the audience that’s ineffable and truly marvelous.
2. Read up. If you’re going to the symphony, read up on the composers or the musicians performing. If you’re going to the theater, read up on the play and the playwright. If you’re going to the opera, read up on the major roles, singers, or the libretto. Read the program—not just the notes about the show, but also about the background of the artists and the creative team.
3. Go to only one part of a museum at a time. Too much beauty can be overpowering, especially when you’re trying to see everything in one afternoon. Be realistic and consider how much time you have to spare. If you can only stay for an hour or two, head for the sections that interest you most and linger there. You’ll be surprised how much more pleasurable the visit can be.
4. Eat before the show. Don’t wait until the intermission to grab a bite. If you know the performance will go way past your usual mealtime, eat something filling before it starts. Watching the last act of a performance could be torture if your stomach is grumbling at the same time.
5. Show up early. Ideally, be at the theater at least 20 minutes before the show begins. You’ll have enough time to park, use the facilities, buy and leaf through the program, locate your seats, and even chat with friends at a leisurely pace.
6. Go with family and friends. Whether it’s to a theater or a museum, your art experience becomes more enjoyable when you share it with people you like being with. You can even talk about the art afterward and make it part of your collective memories.
7. Turn off your phone. I can’t overemphasize this point. It’s the polite thing to do, to not interfere with the enjoyment of others. Moreover, you’ll definitely tune into the action and be more focused because you’re getting rid of the distraction. If you’re a medical professional expecting an emergency call, leave the phone with an usher. It’s the smartest thing to do.
8. Meet the artists. There are so many opportunities to go backstage and see what it’s like from the other side of the theater. Check for supplementary events before and after the shows that often include Q&A sessions with the artists. Or simply stay by the stage door and greet the artists as they leave the theater right after the show. Your appreciation helps motivate the artists to keep doing better.
9. Be an arts donor or a friend of the arts. Patronage goes a long, long way. Even the smallest of contributions can make you feel gratified and invested in the arts. This way, you’ll be subscribed to the company’s newsletters and get up-to-date information, priority booking and seats, and invitation to special events. You can also meet the artists, mingle with other art enthusiasts, make new friends, and become part of the art community.
10. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to interpret art. Whatever kind of show you’re watching, keep an open mind and relax. Don’t feel intimidated or pressured to give an educated critique or opinion, especially if you’re watching for pleasure. If you’ve read reviews of the show beforehand, don’t let them influence your own experience of the performance. You don’t have to agree with popular opinion. Let the performance move you, and be your own judge of whether you like it or not.