Artists and gifts

by Brian Crean

With the holidays upon us, I thought I’d write a different kind of column this month.

Usually I preview one or two First Friday exhibitions, interview an artist or gallery owner and then spread the word about some of the great paintings or drawings that can be viewed along South Elm Street in Greensboro and Trade Street in Winston. And although I’m still going to do a bit of that, before

I do, I’d also like to take a moment to be more reflective and talk about the important role that artists play in our lives. After all, without these creative souls living among us, our environment would be a pretty drab and depressing place.

In an essay titled “Gifts,” the 19 th century American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “The only gift is a portion of thyself… therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing.”

I think there is beauty in acknowledging that by simply fulfilling their creative potential, artists are actually being generous to their communities — offering the world a part of themselves and sharing their unique gifts with the people around them.

Just imagine what your home or office would look like with nothing on the walls. Imagine how boring the world would be without well-designed cars, clothes and computers. Even everyday objects like kitchen plates, bowls and glasses take on importance when they are designed creatively.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a bit in my life, and I think that the very best cities and countries recognize the importance of the arts. Think about it… what do we do when we visit New York or Paris or Rome? We go to a Broadway musical. We wander through museums like the Louvre. Or we visit historic places like the Roman Colosseum. We might explore neighborhoods like SoHo and St. Germain-des-Pres, and as we walk around with our eyes open wide, a natural desire arises within us. We want to buy something. We want to take a part of each beautiful place home with us. We may buy a souvenir for ourselves or a gift for a loved one back home. But no matter what we buy, our purchases are important. They signify our appreciation, and with our generosity we support and encourage the members of the communities we visit.

Which brings us back to our own hometowns and the artists that make them more beautiful. Do we appreciate them enough? Do we support them in the same way we support the other places we visit? Or, since our hometowns are so familiar, do we sometimes take them for granted and forget their importance in our lives?

Every holiday season, I make an effort to be an original gift giver. Not only do I use my own creativity to make gifts for friends and family, but I also buy the work of Triad area artists, and proudly give those original works of art to my family.

A few years ago, I gave a beautiful ceramic vase to my oldest brother and his new wife, and last year I gave some colorful hand-warmers, knitted by a good friend, to my mom, my sister and my niece. This year I look forward to buying more original handmade gifts for my family — impressive and surprising gifts created by talented artists from my hometown.

I think if you take the time to look around the Triad with fresh eyes, a lot of interesting holiday gift ideas will jump out at you.

The new and very classy Elements Gallery next to the Yew Tree Gallery and across from the Mellow Mushroom on South Elm Street is a wonderful new space with very affordable stoneware for sale. Also on S. Elm, near Natty Greene’s Brew Pub is Just Be. Owner Christina Brown’s wonderful shop has added charm and character to the neighborhood for a few years now. In Winston-Salem, galleries like the Other Half, Earthbound Arts, Urban Artware and the Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery also offer a whole host of affordable fine art and crafts from local artisans worthy of your support and recognition.

And finally, don’t forget about the Collector’s Choice holiday show at the Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art.

Yet another upcoming holiday event not to be missed.

wanna go?

first friday in the triad

First Friday Art Hops happen the first Friday of each month in Greensboro along Elm Street and in Winston- Salem emanating from the corner of 6 th and Trade streets.