There’s been talk lately about raising the profile of the arts in Indianapolis. Maybe you think that’s a job for the rich folks. But there’s plenty you and I can do to bring the arts into full flower here. Raku pot by Christine Davis. Available from Indianapolis Art Center gift shop For instance, how many wedding gifts will you buy this summer? A friend of mine is at six, and counting. Now, where were you planning to shop for them? If you’re like me, your first instinct is to go somewhere slick, automatic and heavily advertised — where the gifts come pre-wrapped, with a very snazzy bow. Unfortunately, what’s inside the box can be just as temporary as the wrapping. Maybe it would be better for everyone if we shifted gears, and looked for gifts that come from another place. We could start with baby steps: Walk down a brick street in Zionsville and into a friendly gallery called Art in Hand. Or pop off the Monon Trail and explore the gift shop at the Indianapolis Art Center. Not only do these shops take credit cards, virtually everything for sale is made by a local or nearby artist. And while it’d be misleading to say you won’t see anything corny, this is not fairground fare. Local artists’ co-ops and a few museum shops offer mature work by accomplished artists, much of which can — and does — hold its own in top national exhibits. The best work of our own people carries the warmth, texture and wit of truly contemporary objects, with these fringe benefits: • Your purchase directly benefits the local artist and/or arts organization you choose. And presumably, keeps them here in town, making, showing and teaching art. • The functional or decorative gift you buy won’t be synthetic, mass-produced or Taiwanese. • Your money pays for the making of the item, not the marketing/distribution machine that sells it. Which means you get better materials and finer workmanship, for the same or less money. • These are objects that will hold their value, as sure as they hold the warmth of the human hands that made them. • You get something truly rare: a direct connection with the person who made your one-of-a-kind object. (Something a salad bowl from Williams Sonoma just can’t do for you.) • Your well-chosen, well-received gift helps spread the word about supporting the arts, one wedding/graduation/housewarming at a time. • The parking at these places is usually a cinch, and the people who help you couldn’t be nicer. You bought their license plate, now shop their stores. Remind your friends to check out these excellent venues: Art in Hand, 211 S. Main St., Zionsville, (317) 733-8426. A co-op gallery owned, operated and staffed by 20 professional artists — no gallery commissions. Luscious art glass, hand-dyed textiles, pottery, paintings, jewelry and more. CCA Gallery, 27 E. Cedar St., Zionsville, (317) 733-1813. A co-op gallery featuring the work of 29 seasoned artists. The jewelry and hand-turned wooden pieces are particularly impressive. Again, all sales directly benefit the artist. Indianapolis Art Center Gift Shop, 820 E. 67th St., Indianapolis, (317) 255-2464. The best of the Broad Ripple Art Fair, distilled and available year-round. A great place to go for a jewelry fix. This week’s favorites: fossil-inlaid wooden boxes for Dad and grads, mixed-media works on paper by Herron alumni Yasha Persson. The artist, and Art Center programs, both benefit from your purchase. White River Trader, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, 500 W. Washington, Indianapolis, (317) 636-9378 or www.whiterivertrader.com. Handmade Native American art includes collectible pottery, basketry, gourds, sand paintings, dolls, jewelry and more. The work of Indiana’s Miami nation is represented and all proceeds benefit the museum. Plenty of manly-man stuff for Dad.

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