Lonely Arts Clubs

CHRISTY DESMITH | Updated 8/17/2012

Looking for an alternative to the bar scene? Twin Cities "young patrons groups" offer eye candy as well as edification.

Happy hours, invitations to cast parties, dirt-cheap tickets for decent seats -- these are the ways in which YPGs capture young hearts. But interlopers should take heed: Some of the clubs have the secondary goal of cultivating young donors.

At the Crescendo event, for example, multiple members talked about the importance of financially supporting the orchestra. "I don't want to end up like Detroit or Cleveland!" said Matt Chua, a 26-year-old Crescendo member and corporate strategist at ADC Telecom. For him, the biggest motivator was "supporting the orchestra as an institution."

But broke folks needn't retreat. Luther Ranheim, a 35-year-old Crescendo board member, said members might "try to become supporters, but that's down the road." In the meantime, the club provides a safe, even warm environment in which to learn about classical music and socialize. Of course, the cheap tickets aren't bad, either.

Individual giving was not discussed at the opera event. Tempo is "entirely focused on building a community of the next generation of operagoers," said Jamie Nieman, the opera employee charged with ordering the cheese plates and otherwise managing the club. The same goes for Urbanites, said Rye.

Lawyers -- these clubs are packed with lots and lots of lawyers who enjoy networking. Other popular professions included engineering and finance. I also met a couple of graphic designers, a few marketing and PR professionals, someone in human resources at Target, even the recreation supervisor for the city of Plymouth.

Non-native Minnesotans were also highly prevalent. At the Crescendo event, I met Megan Gardner, a 31-year-old strategy consultant for Ameriprise Financial who recently moved to Minnesota from San Francisco. Gardner is co-chair on the Crescendo board and also belongs to Tempo and the Circle. The groups helped her break the ice, she said -- after all, we Minnesotans are notoriously tight with our social networks.

"You might go to a Walker event and see someone you saw at a Crescendo event six months earlier, and it doesn't take long to form your own community," she said. "If the arts community wasn't here, I'm not sure what that forum would be. Book clubs maybe."

And finally, the most depressing characteristic of these YPGs, at least in the case of the Circle and Tempo: They are woefully underattended by eligible heterosexual men. Sure, I met plenty of young ladies who toted their boyfriends along, especially to the Circle's saucy soiree. But more women went stag. Needless to say, opportunity knocks if a gentleman wants to admire such works of art.

Twin Cities Young Patrons Groups

TEMPO Minnesota Opera

  • Age requirement: 21-39
  • Annual fee: $40
  • Perks: Subscribe to five operas for $120, four for $100 or three for $80. Best of all, Tempo members get great seats.
  • Parties: Every opening night, plus regular happy hours, cocktail parties and group outings to simulcasts of New York City's Metropolitan Opera.
  • Next up: "Opera 101: Divas to Demons," an educational event Dec. 3 with Prof. Vicki Fingalson. Of course, the lecture is both preceded and followed by drinks.
  • Info: www.mnopera.org/tempo

URBANITES Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

  • Age requirement: 21-40
  • Annual fee: None
  • Perks: Significant ticket discounts -- $14.50 for rockin' ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro and $25 for the musical "Grey Gardens," both in March -- as well as backstage tours and, on occasion, access to cast members.
  • Parties: Each after-party is held at Pazzaluna, in downtown St. Paul. Members have access to happy-hour specials and receive complimentary appetizers.
  • Next up: A party March 10 after Shimabukuro's 7:30 p.m. concert.
  • Info: www.ordway.org/urbanites

THE CIRCLE Minneapolis Institute of Arts

  • Age requirement: 21-44
  • Annual fee: $100
  • Perks: Regular museum membership benefits, such as free audio guides, a 10 percent discount at the museum shop and free tickets to special events.
  • Parties: The Circle hosts numerous gallery events, lectures and parties throughout the year. Invitations and updates are sent via the club's e-mail newsletter.
  • Next up: "The Finer Things -- Art, Architecture & Jewelry" at JB Hudson Jewelers this Thursday.
  • Info: www.artsmia.org/thecircle

CRESCENDO PROJECT Minnesota Orchestra

  • Age requirement: none
  • Annual fee: $99 to start, $120 after the inaugural year.
  • Perks: $25 to attend concerts when there's an affiliated Crescendo event; 50 percent off Minnesota Orchestra's create-your-own-package purchases.
  • Parties: Every year, the club hosts three concert events with pre- and postparties as well as two educational lecture events.
  • Next up: "Inside the Classics" concert event Jan. 28 featuring Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4.
  • Info: www.crescendoproject.org