Arts and crafts make for great holiday gifts, and buying from local galleries and shops helps support Northeast Ohio’s creative community and economy
By Ed Carroll
As the holidays approach, TV airwaves will be filled with advertisements peddling the latest and trendiest gifts. While there are those who are happy to give or receive such items, others may prefer more unique options. Luckily for Northeast Ohioans looking for something one-of-a-kind, the region is home to a number of galleries and shops that offer just that, including many items created by area artists and artisans.
Local purveyors of arts and crafts from Don Drumm Studios & Gallery in Akron, Heights Arts in Cleveland Heights, Koehn Sculptors’ Sanctuary on Green in South Euclid, Local Artistree in Rocky River and Screw Factory Artists in Lakewood share why artistic offerings purchased from local businesses not only make for a special gift but also help support the region’s creative community.
Local exposure in Cleveland Heights
Heights Arts emphasizes diversity – particularly in its programming, which combines visual arts with concerts and poetry, says Rachel Bernstein, Heights Arts executive director. When someone from the area buys works of art from a local gallery such as Heights Arts, that person is contributing to the local economy.
“We represent more than 100 local artists,” she says. “We have made it our mission since 2000 to support local artists, and through sales and exhibition, (we) have given out almost ($1 million) in commission to the local economy.”
A primary benefit of an artist showing and selling work through Heights Arts is increased exposure, Bernstein says. The gallery also is home to a store that features locally made ceramics, jewelry, stationery and more – and every holiday season, it hosts a holiday store. Heights Arts’ 16th Annual Holiday Store will be in the gallery through Dec. 30.
“First, because we’re open longer (hours), (artists) get more exposure,” Bernstein says. “Second, in our location, we’re next to the Cedar Lee Theatre, so we get a lot of traffic of people who might not be exposed to their work otherwise. Here, the art is consistently on view, (our staff is) here and (artists) don’t have to be in order to have their work sold.”
Destination art in Akron
Toni Billick, gallery manager at Don Drumm Studios & Gallery, says art makes a great gift because it’s often something you can’t get anywhere else. She says purchasing art from a local gallery has benefits over purchasing from an online retailer.
“Purchasing here in the store, you can touch (the art), see it, see the materials (used),” she says. “Online, you don’t have those options.”
Don Drumm Studios & Gallery showcases more than 500 artists and artisans, including many with Northeast Ohio ties – something Billick says benefits both the artist and the customer. Among the items available are cookware, jewelry, sculpture and religious pieces, like crosses or menorahs.
“We have a huge clientele, and being exposed and being seen by our customers broadens (the artists’) clientele as well,” she says. “We often have people who purchase items here looking for a specific artist.”
In addition, many art buyers seek out the studio simply based on the name.
“Don (Drumm) is a local celebrity,” Billick says of the studio’s owner. “We have a lot of followers in the area, people who come here from out of state and out of the country. We constantly have people from out of town, specifically looking to buy Don Drumm items to bring a piece of Akron back to their homes.”
Mass appeal in Rocky River
Christal Keener, co-owner of Local Artistree, says giving the gift of art makes for a more personal present.
“I think (the gift of art) is a nice form of expression,” she says. “It’s certainly a time to support our local work force – now, in times like this, more than ever. You can go to (a chain retailer that) knocks off everything that maybe a local designer does, but I think we need to support our local friends and neighbors. I would much rather receive something made locally than something made overseas.”
All of Local Artistree’s artists – whether they’re full-time artists or make things on the side – are from Northeast Ohio, Keener says. Even for part-timers, showcasing work at Local Artistree – which offers artistic necklaces, scarves, bowls and pillows, among many other things – has its benefits.
“There’s so much static out there, so many shows and festivals,” she says. “We offer a consistent place to shop. Our inventory does change, but if you follow a particular artist, we can get in contact with them if you want a custom piece.
“When we write the checks and the artists get the checks because their products sold, there’s a lot of joy. You’re making someone feel good by purchasing their work. We’re not a white-walled gallery, which are great and I do go to those. We’re more of a gallery that appeals to the masses. We have something for everyone and many different price points, from $5 to $500.”
Seeing it made in Lakewood
The Lake Erie Building and Templar Industrial Park has been an institution for more than 100 years, even though the building’s purpose and function have changed a few times throughout its history. It was originally a factory for Templar Motor Cars, and today, it’s home of the Screw Factory Artists.
Matt Richards, co-chair of the committee for the upcoming Holiday Market, which this year takes place Dec. 15-16, explains that the Screw Factory Artists are a collection of about 30 makers – including ceramic artists, woodworkers, jewelers and visual artists – whose studios are in the building. A few times a year, including notably during the holidays, the public has an opportunity to tour the building and visit the various studios.
“We’re not a local gallery,” Richards says. “Here, you get to see where it’s made. Customers can come in and talk to the artist, see where (the art) is made and sometimes how it’s made, and that adds a lot to the experience. A lot of people really appreciate that. It’s not like coming to an outlet mall – you’re coming directly to a factory.”
People appreciate that someone in their neighborhood is making art as opposed to bringing in art from somewhere such as New York City, Richards says.
“People say, ‘Oh my god, there’s an artist right around the corner and he makes this really cool stuff,’” he says. “I think that has more of an appeal, it’s more familiar to them.”
Sculpting in South Euclid
Maybe one of the most import reasons to buy gifts from local galleries and shops is because they’re small businesses. Victoria Koehn, co-owner of the Koehn Sculptors’ Sanctuary on Green, says the personalized thought and attention is “ever present” when someone buys locally made art.
“There is a certain pleasure that one experiences knowing the person from whom they’ve just made a purchase and knowing that they are helping support their career,” she says. “Also, every region is different, and online help usually has a difficult time relating to the region or city that a customer is from.”
Koehn and her husband Norbert Koehn own the Sanctuary on Green, where they sell their sculptures and gifts with an eye for detail and have a loyal following of customers. Though both sculpt, the Sanctuary also offers artistic gifts from around the world, including special rooms, some featuring gifts for children or the kitchen and others around certain themes, such as their Swedish and German rooms.
Each year, the Koehns host a special holiday shop. Their 38th Annual Open House & Christkindlmarkt runs through Dec. 27, and there, visitors can shop from a wide assortment of ornaments, decorations and more.
Koehn says local galleries are extensions of the artist and their voice.
“They usually understand what we express and how our work is created,” she says. “Galleries only represent artists whom they admire and see as exciting creators. Their excitement and energy then passes through our works in presentation to prospective clients.” CV
Don Drumm Studios & Gallery
Don Drumm’s annual show of creative gifts and decorating ideas runs through Dec. 24 at 437 Crouse St., Akron.
The 16th Annual Holiday Store is ongoing through Dec. 30 at Heights Arts, 2175 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights.
Koehn Sculptors’ Sanctuary on Green
The 38th Annual Open House & Christkindlmarkt is open Thursdays through Sundays through Dec. 27 at Koehn Sculptors’ Sanctuary on Green, 1936 S. Green Road, South Euclid.
Screw Factory Artists
The Screw Factory Artists’ Holiday Market will be open Dec. 15-16 at the Lake Erie Building and Templar Industrial Park, 13000 Athens Ave., Lakewood.
Lead image: Don Drumm Studios & Gallery offers a variety of gift options. Photo by Don Drumm Studios & Gallery