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Around The Arts

March 15, 2014

Volunteers are the SWAT of the arts world

When you work at an arts organization, particularly a nonprofit, employees often wear many hats — accomplishing the duties that appear in the traditional job description, and then some. It happens everywhere. It’s a running joke among people who work at nonprofits. There is too much to do, and not enough people to do it. That’s when you call in the backup — SWAT, if you will.

Volunteers are the Special Weapons And Tactics teams of the nonprofit arts world . Accomplishing everything from answering phones, hosting artists and hanging art shows to leading interpretive tours, tending gardens and providing transportation, volunteers step up with an enthusiasm that is appreciated from staff and patrons alike.

And it’s not necessarily a one-way street. Volunteering for an arts organization has its perks. As a volunteer, you might have access to a performance or exhibit before the general public; you can meet and develop relationships with artists; and even increase your sense of well-being.

You may have heard the studies that suggest helping others helps keep you happy. Volunteering for an organization in which you have an interest can help you meet new people and even network. It can also be a nice way to experience the art form — perhaps at a lower cost — and, if you like, gain experience in the area. 

There are many arts organizations in the region that welcome the assistance of volunteers. Nancy Nix Karaman, volunteer services manager for the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, says it’s hard to define, but there are probably close to 200 volunteers working with the organizations in myriad departments. At The Farmers’ Museum, volunteers help staff all the events throughout the year — think, Harvest Festival, Candlelight Evening and, my favorite, Sugaring Off Sundays, where volunteers might even be flipping pancakes on the outdoor grill. Volunteers also help with the animals and things typically done in a barnyard. 

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