While it shouldn't come as a surprise that this arts writer would take a pre-Black Friday moment to nudge you towards gifting local art; the length and breadth of the shopping guide below just might. Local art is all around you, waiting to engage with you. Waiting for what it wants and needs most. A home where it is valued.

I've often talked about visual and performing arts in terms of their ability to spark conversation. And just as theatre requires an physical audience for that exchange of energy to occur; visual art requires considered viewing and response. For work that leans more towards the functional, perhaps a lovingly handmade mug or vase, what is required is use. To be infused with the beauty of fresh flowers, or the daily comfort of strong coffee. Over time it becomes filled with memory and ritual. It becomes transformed by love, and, appreciation. And maybe that gifted mug or vase becomes a gateway drug towards more experimentation with contemporary art. Abstract painting, letterpress prints, mixed media collage. The possibilities are endless. And that journey could start with you, and the gifting choices you make this holiday season. 

Gifting local art may not be the easiest or the most efficient way to approach your holiday shopping. In fact, you may already have curated an Amazon list for all of your friends and family and are now, as we speak, mere clicks away from calling this year's shopping done. This is especially tempting with when the recipients are out of town and an IRL gift exchange is not possible. I myself have been guilty of sending digital gifts I have never had any physical contact with. I have sent electronic gift certificates that were used and appreciated. And sometimes the holiday season is just too much and this is the best we can do. I get it. With all of the extra lists they put on top of our daily to-dos, it easy to get burnt out before the actual holiday even begins. But there is another way. 

My most enjoyable holliday shopping experiences have been just that — experiences. Not errands. So here's my suggestion. Check your list, find at least one or two things you can delegate or let go of. Carve out a block of time (or two) and choose your own shopping adventure. I guarantee that the time and effort you take to put down your iPad, change out of those pjs and explore a few of these experiences will be returned to you three times over. There is nothing more energizing that encountering something inventive, creative, or visually stimulating. It energizes the brain and the nervous system. It opens up the heart. It inspires and restores you. And this is exactly the kind of mood we should all be in when we set off on our gift giving journeys. 

One added bonus of buying local art is that you can meet the artists, learn more about them and their work. This will help you sound so smart when said gift is opened and conversation about it is sparked. Imagine a holiday eve spent appreciating and responding to art. Oh the wonder. But you can actually make this happen. And if that local artist is active on social media, you can connect your giftee with said artist. The possibilities are endless.  

I'll share a little secret with you. Artists, even those who occasionally make work that is NSF (not for sale), want to see work find a loving home. They want to know hear how it has settled in. They want to know that it continues to thrive and inspire. And here in Chambana, where we have a growing and vibrant art scene, we're small enough that meeting local artists is a possible.

Recently, my wise colleague Apolonia referred to our local arts scene as "an invaluable ecosystem." She couldn't have been more correct. Makers and buyers represent a key relationship in this system. And while the financial exchange is an important one; it is not the only one needed to keep this ecosystem alive. Art needs to be seen and talked about, and artists need to feel that what they do matters in a real way. What better way is there is serve all these needs than bring a piece of art for a loved one, and maybe even one for yourself. 

But buying art can feel risky, even scary, especially when you're new to it. Here are a few things that can help. Set a budget range. Be open to the unexpected, especially when buying for others. Don't dismiss functional art. Remember, mugs and vases can be gateways to more risky art intake in years to come. Art doesn't have to match the furniture. It doesn't have to break the bank. It has to open up something in you. A question, a memory, a feeling. And last of all, don't overthink it. You can't Yelp the art. You can't go on Amazon to read its reviews. So you have to trust yourself. All great gifts require some degree of risk. But by going analog, and interacting with local artists and art lovers, perhaps the best gift you'll give is to yourself. You will have met people who inspire you. You will have visited news spots in a town you thought you knew too well. You'll be excited for your gift to be opened. And isn't that that the best thing you can do for yourself and for everyone around you? 

So get out your calendar, block out some of these dates, and get ready for the most fun you've ever had holiday shopping. 

Annual Art Coop $50 Art Show

Yes, the opening reception was last Friday. But there is still art to be adopted and local animals to help support. 100% of the proceeds benefit the Champaign County Humane Society. Pay by check or cash. Pick up your art December 21st. 

10th Annual Art Coop $50 Art Show
Art Coop
Lincoln Square Mall
Through December 21st
Photo from Facebook event page

 

Pop-Up: Dreaming of Johnny

The fabulous Sophie McMahon of Dreaming of Johnny will be bringing her monster loving art to Hopscotch. Great gift opportunities for fans of monsters and the women who love them at a range of price points. 

Pop-Up: Dreaming of Johnny
Hopscotch Bakery + Market
802 W John St, Champaign
November 30th, 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Photo from Hopscotch website

 

Coffee and Tea, Cups and Dessert
 

A great place to snag those habit starting mugs we talked about earlier. Enjoy gourmet desserts as you browse. This is definitely the way to ease into your holiday art buying. 

Coffee and Tea, Cups and Dessert
Giertz Gallery at Parkland College
2400 W Bradley Ave., Champaign
December 5th, 4 to 7 p.m.
Tickets are $30, $50 for 2; proceeds benefit Giertz Gallery
Photo from Facebook event page

 

The 2019 Mistletoe Market

This is great opportunity for one-stop local art and handmade goods. The vendor list is a veritable who's who of local artists. Stop, chat, and shop. 

The 2019 Mistletoe Market
Lincoln Square Mall, Urbana
December 6th, 4 to 10 p.m.
Image from Facebook event page
 

The 2019 HandMades Sale
 

This event is a road trip and art fest in one. Get a change of scene and shop work from an incredibily robust list of local artists working in a variety of mediums.

The 2019 HandMades Sale
State House Inn
101 E Adams St., Springfield 
December 6th, 2 to 7 p.m.
December 7th, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Image from Facebook event page

 

Made by MEW Pop-Up

Hopscotch is really bringing the art pop-ups  this season. Meet librarian, designer, and community organizer Madeleine Wolske and snap up some of her fabulous new jewelry creations. Plus yummy baked treats and warm cozy beverages. It's a feel-good trifecta. 

Made By MEW Pop-Up
Hopscotch Bakery + Market
802 W John St, Champaign
December 7th, 12 noon to 5 p.m.


Misfit Market

If traditional winter holiday culture is not your thing, then the Misfit Holiday Night Market might be just your speed. Explore the edgier side of our local art scene, shop from a wide range of quirky makers, and enjoy live music. You can even paint your own ornament and make it as weird as you want. 

Misfit Market
Cafeteria + Co
208 W Main St., Urbana
December 7th, 5 to 11 p.m.
Image from Facebook event page
 

Old Town Market 2019

Lots of homemade goods here for giving gifts small and large. Candles, flowers, pottery, textiles, and more. 

Old Town Market 2019
708 S Prairie, Champaign
December 13th, 5 to 8 p.m.
December 14th, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

 

Japan House Mottainai: Annual Bazaar

I know I may be stretching the definition of local art here, but the wonders created and offered at Japan House are as much a part of our local arts community. This is a great opportunity if you have yet to visit Japan House. This will definitely put the Zen in your holiday shopping. 

Japan House Mottainai: Annual Bazaar
Japan House
2000 S Lincoln Ave, Urbana
December 14 + 15, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

Holiday Hooey Home Show

I can't believe that Hooey Home Show is about to turn 17!  This annual arts tradition is a must. Cozy, filled to the brim with great arts and crafts, and good conversation. 

Holiday Hooey Home Show
905 S. Lynn St., Urbana
December 20th, 5 to 8 p.m.
December 21st, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Photo from Facebook event page