Black Friday is over, which means the Christmas shopping frenzy is officially in gear. That’s the green light for my annual jag about buying local.
Why fill the pockets of online businesses or fatten corporate profits through chain businesses when you can contribute to the success of local artists and locally owned businesses? Why buy mass-produced products, including artwork, when you can buy gifts unlike anything else?
It’s about investing in your community and its quality of life.
When we buy locally, it creates a chain of spending that flows to employees, landlords and utilities, advertising outlets and business equipment companies, artists and craftsmen, and any type of service purchased by a local business. That money, in turn, is invested in the local economy. It also contributes to local tax revenue, helping pay for streets and bridges, water and trash services, and all sorts of other amenities.
But it goes beyond the local economics of it. Buying local also supports the distinct character of a community, in Joplin’s case its reputation as an art community. The more original, one of a kind art that is sold locally, the more it strengthens that reputation and our position as a shopping destination. Its long-term effect is the attraction of new businesses and entrepreneurs and the retention of educated professionals, including the young ones. The nice thing about shopping in a burgeoning art community is that you can avoid the holiday chaos of shopping centers, malls and big box stores. Local galleries and studios are in the downtown district or off the beaten path, as are businesses like coffee shops or restaurants that have exhibits of locally created artwork that can be purchased.
There are also the marketplaces such as Empire Market, where artisans can sell directly to the public, and there are community art centers, such as Spiva Center for the Arts or Carthage’s artCentral, where there’s plenty of art to procure. Spiva has a gift shop with locally created art and artCentral hosts an annual holiday boutique featuring the work of local artists. This year’s boutique is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
These businesses create personal customer service because they have firsthand knowledge of the artists and they can help connect you with the artist for just the right art piece or for the commissioning of a piece. Want a piece of fiber art in particular colors? These businesses can connect you with an artist who can provide it. Have an aging photograph of a family memory that you would like to have translated into a painting? The businesses that sell locally produced artwork can refer you to an artist to handle it.
What seems to stall people in buying local art is its cost. Yes, any original artwork will cost more than off the shelf reproductions. But you’re paying for the creativity of a truly unique piece, giving you more value for your money.
There are ways to shave costs though. Many artists recognize that not everyone has deep pockets, so they offer some work in small pieces — artistic coasters, coffee mugs, cutting boards, pillows or scarves. Some also sell prints that are reproductions of paintings but with only a limited number produced.
You can also find a wider range of prices if you think beyond the traditional art mediums. Art is about more than paintings or photographs. It’s anything that’s handmade. It can be pottery or functional clay pieces, quilts or fiber weavings, baskets or gourd creations, wood works or handmade furniture, jewelry or polymer sculpture. The list goes on.
There are always those gifts of art that require no choices. Buying a gift membership in Spiva or artCentral supports nonprofits. It’s likewise for buying season tickets to Joplin Little Theatre, Stained Glass Theatre, Stone’s Throw Dinner Theatre, Midwest Regional Ballet or Heartland Opera.
There are also gifts of enrollment in art classes. There are offerings in a cornucopia of mediums at Spiva, and there are occasional drop-in workshops at artCentral. The Pittsburg, Kansas, artists’ co-op, ArtForms Gallery, also offers all types of workshops in art and fine crafts. Our local artists’ co-op, Local Color Art Gallery and Studio, offers classes in painting, as does Create N Sip Studios (formerly RSVPaint). For classes in clay, check Crackpot Pottery and Studio or Skinner’s Pottery, north of Diamond.
It isn’t as if there aren’t options for buying local art to fulfill your holiday shopping needs. It’s about pushing the convenience and generic offerings of big box or chain stores to the back of your mind and bringing support of local businesses, artists and the economy to front of it. Buying local is a conscious effort.
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