I’ll admit it, as I slog through the heaps of manufactured malaise in our commercial meccas during the holidays I have to say, “bah humbug.”
I am so bored with piles of sweaters, gimmicky gadgets and mass produced shiny bits that I could spit a candy cane. C’mon, you know I’m right. It isn’t my intent to be a Grinch, but is it so wrong to look for a little more meaning in our gift giving?
Well, look no further, because I have a suggestion: give art.
Come with me as we forego the maddening crowds at the malls and search for a gift with a bit more heart and soul and a lot more originality.
We are fortunate in the urban core of San Antonio to have a number of gifted artists and galleries to choose from. There are so many different energies at work: playful, irreverent, sleek, stylish, gritty, provocative, organic, loud – the artists of our city run the gamut.
Think paintings and prints, photographs, ceramics, textiles, carvings and jewelry. When you begin to reach out to this community and bring home pieces to live with, your world changes. There’s a human connection when you go to the creative source. Isn’t that the reason for the season? Isn’t this what we search for?
I know you’re wondering, “Isn’t gifting a piece of art a bit risky? What if they don’t like it?”
Of course it is, but I argue that it’s worth the risk. Live dangerously. Step out of the anonymous safety zone of the gift-card jungle and choose something that speaks to you or your loved one, they’ll thank you.
You can always ask about return policies, but remember that you are typically dealing with a very small business owner, not a huge corporate behemoth with bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. While it isn’t unusual to encounter an “all sales final” policy, most are open to an exchange option – just ask.
Next hurdle. You ask, “But isn’t original artwork expensive?” Yes, it can be. But we are not at Art Basel Miami looking at works that can command millions of dollars, so relax. It is possible to find artwork for almost any pocketbook. Particularly during the holidays, many artists will create work that is intended to be affordable. There may even be a few offering a holiday discount (more on this later).
“So what does affordable mean?” Good question.
Affordable is a relative term isn’t it? Affordable to one guy is two months rent to the next fella. Trust me when I say there is a range of prices and values.
For every established artist with a track record of high profile collectors and museum acquisitions to their name, there are 100 who are just breaking out and only beginning to make their mark in the professional world. Beyond that there are scads who are just getting started with no reputation beyond heart, promise and hard work in the studio.
One last tip: be careful about asking an artist to discount their work.
Lately, it seems to be the style for certain publications to encourage this behavior. Actually, it is unseemly and every artist will groan with dismay, though probably not to your face. The price is the price. If you simply can’t help yourself, ask nicely and with no expectation. As I mentioned earlier, none of these artists have bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. If you are considering buying more than one, you may ask if there is a quantity discount. Some artists have been known to work out payment plans or layaway options. If an artist does choose to extend their generosity to you, please be grateful and appreciative.
Part of the adventure of collecting art is getting to know the individuals behind the object. The joy of discovery and making a difference by investing in an artist’s work is a flame that tends to grow. It’s a great feeling and, honestly, how much junk have you bought over the years that ended up in the next garage sale or in a box headed to Goodwill? You may consider investing your hard-earned money elsewhere.
Okay, I can tell you are warming up to this idea. Stick with me, I’m going to give you some ideas here of where to go to find some really cool things. Keep in mind, however, that this is merely a starting place, and I am only scratching the surface of the number of open and soon-to-be-open studios and galleries in San Antonio. I am hoping that you will be intrigued enough to search out art, wherever it lives, throughout the year.
Many of these places you will have to hit this evening. Others have regular hours and will be open through Christmas. Some are open by appointment only because artists usually must wear many hats to get it all done, including tending to “day jobs.”
I will begin with the phenomenon of Second Saturday in the Lone Star Art District – also referred to as the South Flores Art District – roughly centered at the nexus of Lone Star Boulevard and South Flores Street. This warehouse area has been home to artists and their studios for nearly two decades, pioneered by folks like Joe Lopez at Gallista and Andy and Yvette Benavides of One9Zero6.
Bill Fitzgibbons’ Lonestar Studio as well as The Lullwood Group have brought renewed energy to the hood and the buzz keeps growing.
Savvy collectors are regular attendees, so I’m steering you in the right direction when I say this is the place to be — and buy. Most gallery/reception hours are 7-10 p.m., unless otherwise noted.
New kid on the block this month is the much anticipated Dorćol Distilling Company. Co-owners Chris Mobley and Boyan Kalušević are introducing artisanal spirits to SoFlo with their meticulously double-distilled Kinsman Rakia.
Along with their commitment to quality, they bring a commitment to the artistic nature of the neighborhood by exhibiting art and sculpture. Photographer Scott Martin will bring his extraordinary prints on metal to the space. Scott also has a holiday print sale going on. This is specifically for 16″ x 20″ prints on paper, $350 unframed. Inquiries can be made via his website, or talk to Scott at the Dorćol on Saturday.
And don’t miss out on these hot spots:
- “Print Provocateur” at Shek Vega’s Gravelmouth Gallery. Group show of works from the Serie Project.
- “Second Saturday Christmastime” at One9Zero6 Gallery. Take a pic with Santa and shop with studio artists.
- ” Holiday Pulga” at Alex Rubio’s ® Gallery. In addition to original artwork, vinyl records, clothing, jewelry and more. 1-10 p.m.
- “Pińata Clause” with Kim Bishop and Luis Valderas at 3rd Space out behind Gallista. Get your picture made before 8:45 p.m.
- “Screen Print Exhibition and Holiday Studio Sale” with Fitzgibbons’ The Lullwood Group.
- Chris Sauter’s “Shape of the Universe”, the third in a series of his exhibits happening around the city and at FL!GHT.
- Glass Blowing demos and sale all night long.
Blue Star Arts Complex and Beyond
Another spot to hit is Blue Star Arts Complex. This place is popping with the new and the old. There’s been construction on South Alamo Street and a lot of noise in the press that might lead you to believe that all the artists have dried up and blown away. This is not the case. There are wonderful galleries, great spots to get your eat and drink on, regular live music as well as The Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum.
A mainstay of Blue Star for many moons, this gallery offers a sophisticated selection of art, artifacts and jewelry. With price points from $5 for a simple imported bracelet to $20,000 for a sculptural piece, it’s difficult not to walk out the door with something really great.
The collection is informed by Hughes’ exquisite aesthetic, so you can’t go wrong.
Celebrating 25 years at Blue Star, this is a compendium of some of the most recognized and collected “outsider” artists in the world. Collected by the likes of the Rockefellers and the Smithsonian, it’s a giant toy store for us big kids. The one thing all of these artists have in common is that they are self-taught. Mention Code: ANNIVERSARY and get 25% off. Hurry in because they close the week of Christmas.
This is a collaboration by printmaker Paula Cox and textile artist Jane Bishop. The shop is absolutely charming. It’s an amalgam of handmade and vintage with a smart urban edge. They can design fabric to reupholster that primo armchair you couldn’t resist at the last garage sale. Limited edition wallpaper, notecards, tea towels and ceramics by the amazing Diana Kersey. It’s easy to find something to love with prices ranging from $15 to $1000.
The brainchild of Susan Oliver Heard, this gallery specializes in contemporary art. Heard is also a GIA certified gemologist and custom jewelry expert. Think of her when you are wondering what to do about that beautiful sapphire in Aunt Gertie’s horrible cocktail ring. She can design something to make you happy. Call to confirm hours.
Last, but certainly not least, let’s talk jewelry. In addition to Cinnabar at Blue Star, I am thinking of two other go-to spots for inspired giving.
This is the bejeweled nest of San Antonio jeweler extraordinaire Alejandro Sifuentes. Located in La Villita Historic Arts Village, this is a must see. In addition to Sifuentes’ exquisite creations, you will find the work of the best contemporary metalsmiths and jewelers from all over the country. Rotating exhibitions are hosted throughout the year. It is truly a beautifully curated gallery. Prices range from $35 to $11,000.
What a fairytale. Kathleen started out designing bikinis and pareos in Acapulco in 1970. Donna Karan was an early client. This lovely lady with the big clothing company is based right here in San Antonio, where all of her designs are still made. Right now, the 5th annual Invitational Bracelet Show is the centerpiece of her North Main Street store in historic Monte Vista. Prices are ranging from $38 to $4600, with some choices that are very definitely unisex. These works are all handcrafted and the shop is a lovely testament to the virtues of good design. You can even pick up “eco-luxe” Acequia lotions and soaps that are locally crafted by Capistrano Soap Company.
There are more – many more – local galleries and studios that offer warm, creative alternatives for holiday and year-round shopping, but we’ll have to close here for now. With that I say, “A Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!”
See — I’m not a Grinch.
Tami Kegley has lived the life of an artist. Through multiple careers — dancer, percussionist, performance artist, sculptor, goldsmith, gallerist — she has pursued her need to create. The Great Recession brought changes, and now she’s back and discovering the art world of San Antonio, one happening at a time. The Rivard Report is one place that you can follow her trail, as is www.artblogsa.com.