Shop locally…and ARTfully! Jill Rafferty-Weinisch

Love it or hate it, the holiday shopping season is officially upon us. The clock is ticking , with just about two weeks left to complete your Santa shopping. For the past few years, we’ve heard a lot more about “buying local” and investing our holiday shopping dollars in our own communities. I love that idea…and I’d like to propose an even narrower focus. Can you use your holiday dollar to support local artists?

Is art on your shopping list? Will the people you shop for unwrap music, dance, theatre, or literature this holiday? Wouldn’t it be great to find a painting of a sculpture under the tree? As you make your winter gift list, why not consider the jewelry, clothing, accessories, handbags, pottery, furniture and home décor being made by artists who share our community? When you’re buying unique handmade items, you seldom have to worry that your recipient will get two of something. Pop-up craft fairs abound at local schools, churches and community centers – and independent shops offer a wide variety of handmade goods for gifting.

And visual art is only part of what the Capital Region arts community has to offer. Live performances offer a dynamic and compelling way to celebrate those who are dear to you and local venues are more than happy to accommodate a need for gift certificates. Think about tickets to live theatre or dance, or a musical performance. You can find practically anything from rock and roll to jazz to a full on symphony orchestra. The big venues do it – but so do many of the small clubs. The variety of performers and environments can surely accommodate anyone you are hoping to gift to this year. Buy a pair of tickets, and maybe you’ll get to be the lucky guest – a great holiday bonus.

How about the written word? New digital techniques are making is easier for authors to self-publish without the cost or volume of mass market literary houses. Local stores, especially our excellent independent bookstores, make a special effort to feature these titles. You can frequently find an opportunity to have your purchase signed and dedicated to your gift recipient by the author!

Recorded music has similarly become more accessible for artists with a smaller following. Often, you can buy these directly from the artists themselves – and many local shops are making a point to help support local musicians by playing, and selling their music. And local music isn’t just for ‘local people’. What a great way to give far-away gift recipients the flavor of your hometown than to send them some homegrown music!

And don’t forget the culinary arts! Our community has some great local producers of packaged treats that make great gifts. Gourmet peanut butters ground locally, delectable candies and baked good, bottled and jarred sauces and condiments – even locally brewed beer – are all available. We’ve even got some niche culinary artisans producing great specialty items for those avoiding sugar, dairy, gluten or meat.

If you’ve got young people to buy for, you’ve probably got a long list of expensive electronics. I know it’s inevitable that kids want these things but I try to be a little different. Your gift of the arts to a kid – from toddler to teen – could build a life-long habit. Cultivating patrons for the arts is a gift we can all get behind! Prints for the nursery; artful mobiles to hang over the crib; children’s books by local authors, adorable clothes, hats and mittens; screenprinted t-shirts; books of poetry; jewelry; art-making supplies; CD’s and digital downloads – there’s plenty to choose from. Or how about taking a young person to a performance? Local Nutcrackers are always a good bet, but a blues show in the local club (as long as they’re cool with underage patrons) would go a long way to giving a young person an appreciation of an art-form that can last for life.

And when you’re finished shopping, remember that keeping art in YOUR life doesn’t stop in the busy season of the holidays. Organize some of your holiday get-togethers around the arts. Instead of going out to the Olive Garden to celebrate the season with friends, how about taking in a show together? Rather than hitting the sales on December 26th, hit a museum instead. And if you have anything left over, consider making an end-of-year donation to support the local organization you favor. As we roll into 2013, make being a better arts patron (whatever that means to you) one of your resolutions. It’s the gift that really keeps on giving!

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