“Altered Value: The Art of Funny Money” by Josh Usmani

Whether shopping for the holidays, a special occasion or for oneself, gift-seekers have plenty of options thanks to Northeast Ohio’s arts community

By Ed Carroll

It can be hard to come up with gift ideas for friends and family during the holidays – or any time of year, for that matter. The good news is that Northeast Ohio’s arts community has plenty to offer in terms of thoughtful gifts that will not only please the recipient but will also support local artists, business owners and arts institutions – all of which make invaluable contributions to the region.

To help, Canvas has complied a short list of suggestions for arts-themed gifts that will help shoppers skip the gift-card rack at a chain store and instead pick out a more meaningful gift. By no means is this a comprehensive list, but it should help get gift-seekers started, and in the process, encourage them to consider what else Northeast Ohio’s creative community has to offer.


“Altered Value: The Art of Funny Money” by Josh Usmani

Josh Usmani quit his day job 10 years ago to pursue a career as an artist, months before the recession hit the U.S. in 2008. His lifelong money issues ended up inspiring him to use currency itself as his medium, starting from a tongue-in-cheek political protest and evolving into an exploration of value. He draws on real currency, encouraging readers to question the concept of value and leaving it to readers to decide whether he’s increased or decreased the value of the money on which he draws. “Altered Value: The Art of Funny Money” features more than 150 drawings on currency from more than 35 countries. A companion exhibition is on view through Dec. 8 at Tregoning & Company inside 78th Street Studios in Cleveland.

Purchase “Altered Value: The Art of Funny Money” at 1984publishing.com/store or by visiting local bookstores, including Mac’s Backs in Cleveland Heights. Usmani and his book will also be at the Cleveland Bazaar Dec. 8-9 at 78th Street Studios, 1300 W. 78th St., Cleveland.

“The heART of Cleveland” by Scott Kraynak

“The heART of Cleveland” by Scott Kraynak
“The heART of Cleveland” by Scott Kraynak

“The heART of Cleveland” by Scott Kraynak features a variety of artwork across many media all linked by one common connector: Cleveland. The book – which is a companion to an exhibition held this past summer at e11even 2 gallery at 78th Street Studios in Cleveland – highlights the city’s contributions to the arts throughout the years, and includes photos, artwork, poems and reflections by artists who either are from Cleveland or have lived in Cleveland. “The heART of Cleveland” not only showcases talented Clevelanders, it also details why the city itself is so inspiring.

Purchase “The heART of Cleveland” by emailing Kraynak at clevelandranger@hotmail.com or by visiting Mac’s Backs and Appletree Books in Cleveland Heights; Visible Voice Books in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood; the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood; or CLE Clothing Co. in downtown Cleveland, University Circle and Fairlawn. The book will also be available during Holiday at the Hub, a pop-up market featuring local artists, from Nov. 20 to Dec. 23 at Hub 55, 1361 E. 55th St., Cleveland.


Heights Arts

“Micro-scape 46” by Susan Danko
“Micro-scape 46” by Susan Danko. Image courtesy of Heights Arts.

Browse Heights Arts’ 17th Annual Holiday Store through Dec. 30 for gift options from more than 100 Northeast Ohio artists. Ceramics, jewelry, screenprints, glasswork and hand-knits are available, as are artist-created holiday supplies like handmade cards, ornaments and handmade Judaica (the latter thanks to support from the Mandel Foundation). Those less interested in visual arts won’t be left out in the cold, either. Also available will be CDs by local musicians and chapbooks by local poets. The holiday store is restocked weekly, so shoppers who don’t see something that strikes them can return the following week for additional options.

For more, visit heightsarts.org or stop by the gallery at 2175 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights.

Pennello Gallery

Votive holders and bowls by Maine-based Baltic by Design from Pennello Gallery
Votive holders and bowls by Maine-based Baltic by Design from Pennello Gallery. Photo by Michael C. Butz.

Pennello Gallery in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood specializes in contemporary American, Canadian and Israeli fine arts and crafts. Among the many noteworthy gift options there are votive holders and bowls by Maine-based Baltic by Design, which uses a single block of wood cut by a laser to create a multitude of shapes; “After the Darkness,” an inspiring piece about the resilience of the Jewish people and the heroism of strangers related to the Holocaust by California-based 3D pop artist Charles Fazzino; and a plethora of mezuzahs hand-made by U.S. and Israeli artists, ranging from the minimal to the ornate, and using materials such as metal, glass, clay and precious stones. Consider stopping by the gallery during the Little Italy Holiday Art Walk from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2.

For more, visit pennellogallery.com or stop by the gallery at 12407 Mayfield Road, Cleveland.


Cleveland International Film Festival

Cleveland International Film Festival
Photo courtesy Cleveland International Film Festival

The Cleveland International Film Festival, which typically showcases more than 200 feature-length films and more than 215 short films from filmmakers all over the world, is regularly one of Cleveland’s most popular events. The next iteration, CIFF43, will take place from March 27 to April 7, 2019. While you needn’t be a CIFF member to see the films, a membership – which is available at several price points – includes perks such as advance access to ticket sales, discounted ticket prices and a discount off CIFF merchandise. In addition, members are sure to feel a sense of satisfaction in helping to ensure CIFF returns for a 44th year in 2020.

For more, visit clevelandfilm.org.

Local arts institutions

Northeast Ohio is home to a number of world-class arts entities and institutions – and all of them offer memberships that can be used and appreciated by their recipients year-round.

For theater mavens, Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland has several membership levels, which include advance sales, notifications of upcoming events and a special annual reception.

For fans of cutting-edge art, there’s the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, which has various membership levels with perks including free admission to exhibitions, free or discounted admission to programs, private exhibition tours and discounts in the gift shop.

For those who prefer history, there’s the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, whose members get free general admission, discounted programs, general admission guest passes and a discount in the gift shop.

Conductor Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra.
Conductor Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra. Photo by Roger Mastroianni / The Cleveland Orchestra.

For classical music lovers, the Cleveland Orchestra offers members access to $10 concert tickets, free drink tickets, member events, and when they reserve seating, members get the best available seats. Whether it’s a membership from one of these four places or one of the many other noteworthy organizations in the region, the recipient – and the institution – will benefit. CV

Lead image: “Altered Value: The Art of Funny Money” by Josh Usmani. Photo by Josh Usmani.