Last Christmas my wife gave me a painting she had commissioned of my dog Angus. Angus was a big, handsome Airedale terrier that loved to ride in Saab convertibles. I lost him two years ago and miss him terribly. The painting of him standing on the back deck of the Saab allows him to always be with me, and I see him every day. I was overjoyed by the gift and will treasure it always. It is also a testament to how thoughtful my wife is.
Christmas shoppers are all alike in one thing: We all want our gifts to please, to show our love and regard, and maybe, our good taste. Often we wait too long and fret and struggle over purchase decisions while the perfect gift eludes us. I have a suggestion.
I suggest giving a gift that shows thoughtfulness and love, a gift that is unique and artistic, a gift that embodies intelligence and integrity, and touches and benefits many. I am talking about giving the gift of Maine art. Maine art and fine crafts are the real thing. Maine is a mecca for fine visual arts with a national and international reputation. Maine artists and fine crafts people create products that add beauty, joy and value to our homes and lives. Why not give their creations as Christmas gifts from the heart?
Consider this: When you purchase art by a local artist, you are supporting that artist, their family and the local community. Your purchase is making it possible for future art to be made. You also now have the opportunity to become a collector of their work, a modest patron and supporter of their career. The more knowledge and involvement you have with a piece, the more you will value it.
Most art and fine crafts sold in Maine are in the $150 to $500 price range. They come in an unending assortment and variety of paintings, sculptures and fine crafts. Paintings and photographs can give inspiration, wonder, and maybe something different every time you look at them. Fine crafts are often utilitarian, such as vases, bowls, jewelry, clothing, while also being works of art that beautify and elevate our living and work interiors.
Two places to find perfect Maine art gifts are galleries and artist studios. Galleries offer a selection of work, most often by local artists that have been carefully vetted and chosen for their quality, beauty and integrity. Artist studios are where the artist creates and sells their work. It is a chance to meet the artist and if you purchase a work, it puts you on the ground floor of the “story” of the piece. And the story always adds to the value.
There are many excellent fine art and crafts shows and many wonderful local galleries and art studios. There is an art gallery in Ellsworth that sells nature art by the Bangor Daily News’ own Tom Hennessey that would look great in any office or den. And it is affordable. There is a colony of excellent galleries in Belfast and also in Stonington, Blue Hill, Bar Harbor, Camden and down the coast. Rockland has emerged as the art mecca of Maine with over 24 galleries and a famous museum. Everywhere there are galleries there are studios too, more numerous and usually less visible.
If you give a gift of Maine art this Christmas, you will be making it much merrier for the giver, the givee and the artists and their families. If not, don’t forget birthdays, graduations and special occasions in the future. Also, a gift of art to your spouse or child becomes a gift to the whole household.
So consider giving the gift of art. It will be a gift of conscience, helping a local Maine artist and the local community It will be a gift of lasting beauty and value. It will be a gift that shows where your heart and priorities are. And it will be a gift that will be cherished long after the wrappings are cleared away.
Anthony Anderson lives in Lucerne-in-Maine Village and is the publisher of Maine Gallery & Studio Guide.