The turkey’s trashed, the relatives have retreated and retail insanity has ensued. Welcome to the high holy season of American capitalism.
It’s unsurprising my opinion is the best gifts affect the greatest number of people, which is more reason to look to our arts and cultural backdrop this holiday season. The money you hand to a local artist stays in this community. It furthers someone’s pursuit of a dream.
Options abound, regardless of where you live and shop. Go to CATS Art Gallery (5301 Cottage Hill Road) and your money helps feline rescue and foster. Also west of Interstate 65 are Melanie Blackerby Studio and Gallery (4513 Old Shell Road) and Nappie favorite Amber Ivey Fine Art (3607 Old Shell Road).
The field is more crowded in midtown. You can drop into Innova Arts (1803 Old Shell Road) after grabbing Dew Drop chili dogs across the street. The proprietors of Marnée’s Art Studio and Gallery (2353 Airport Blvd.) and Ashland Gallery (2321 Old Shell Road) are stalwarts with community involvement on numerous fronts.
Such artists as Julie Rhames and Nolen-Schmidt run studios and sell work out of their homes — or around the corner from home, like Brad Robertson. Those visits are usually informal and sometimes wildly entertaining.
The Central Arts Collective will host a Christmas Open House and Art Market on Dec. 1, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The group in Central Presbyterian Church (1260 Dauphin St.) was organized by Nappie winner Ardith Goodwin, and event announcements paint a vision of a gifting cornucopia.
If you’re like me, little equates to holiday shopping like a downtown experience — no doubt embedded by childhood yuletide in Birmingham’s bustling shopping district. Except for one mishap where I became airborne by dangling on the outside of an ascending escalator, knocking over mannequins before my embarrassed mother darted over and plucked me down, it was perfect Christmas magic.
Anyhoo, there’s a surfeit of gift spots in the Henry Aaron Loop. You can find art for sale at Sophiella Gallery (111 Dauphin St.), Mobile Arts Council (318 Dauphin St.), Spire (not a gas company — 501 Dauphin St.) and Mobilia Art Center (612 Dauphin St.). If you stop into Sway (10 S. Conception St.) you can select from some of Joanne Cox’s work or enroll your gift recipient in dance or yoga classes.
If the eccentric and eclectic are what you seek, go straight to Serpents of Bienville (755 Government St.). Steeped in Southern mythology and folklore, the oddity shop is an enthusiastic supporter of area talent.
The Dec. 14 LoDa Artwalk will feature the customary street vendors with a wide assortment of arts and crafts. It’s normally one of the best gallery strolls of the year, akin to a huge neighborhood street party. Last year’s version featured honest-to-goodness snow.
I’ve long found books an economical and easily specialized avenue for gifts. That makes for the perfect excuse to hit The Haunted Book Shop (109 Dauphin St.) and find something for any taste. They also offer whimsical book-related paraphernalia, in genres from science fiction to the Beats to the classics.
Don’t stop with material items. What about memberships in the Mobile Museum of Art, the History Museum of Mobile, Alabama Contemporary Art Center, Gulf Coast Exploreum, the Mobile Carnival Museum, GulfQuest National Maritime Museum, USA Archaeology Museum or Mobile Medical Museum? They come with discounts on entrance fees and classes and retail items, and mostly help support vital and superb institutions.
Mobile is filled with historic house museums that would be willing to take donations in someone’s name or sell memberships. Your funds make it possible for so many others to enjoy these places.
Does your giftee love music? What about a membership in the Friends of the Saenger program? They can enjoy discounted access to concerts and help with the overwhelming upkeep of Mobile’s grandest showplace.
You could also opt for membership in Mobile Opera, Mobile Symphony Orchestra, Mobile Chamber Music Society, the Mystic Order of the Jazz Obsessed (MOJO) or Mobile Ballet.
If someone loves theater, pay for a season’s subscription to Joe Jefferson Players, Mobile Theatre Guild, Chickasaw Civic Theatre or Theatre 98. If you have the wherewithal, make them a sponsor.
The gift you hand your loved one this December will echo in every experience they enjoy throughout the year. Every time they look at beauty on a wall or mantle, when they walk into a play or concert, when they reflect on a book’s passage, they’ll think of you.
Best of all, your entire community benefits. Which means you get something, too.