The Art of Giving

You've sipped their wine, chugged their beer, and eaten their stale cheese. You've achieved opening-night art-lover status, and, as pleased as local gallery owners are to see your face once a month like clockwork when there's a free art party, it's time to pay up. The holiday season promises payback for many art galleries that assemble group shows and seasonal hoo-hah in hopes of getting you to break out the checkbook and give a gift of art for Christmas. Or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or winter solstice. Just buy something, for Scrooge's sake.

For starters, check out the McKinney Avenue Contemporary's annual Blue Yule and buy an artist-made ornament from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. December 15. The $5 party admission and bauble sales go back into the MAC for programming and education. Throughout December, Fort Worth's Carol Henderson Gallery rolls out holiday ornaments and art jewelry in addition to works in every medium by gallery artists during the edible-inspired Food for Thought exhibition; Kittrell-Riffkind Art Glass mounts its annual show of holiday ornaments; and Randall Garrett's new Plush Gallery presents Thriftopia, with art for sale in a thrift-shop environment.

Less obvious than actual works of art for holiday gifts are art books, art supplies, art lessons, and art museum memberships. Blessed as we are with mega-museums and art centers around North Texas, a thoughtful holiday gift is a membership. The Dallas Museum of Art, the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Dallas Visual Art Center, Fort Worth's Kimbell and Modern Art Museums, and the Arlington Museum of Art all offer affordable membership packages to make year-long art appreciation accessible to all. Memberships include invitation-only events, free or discounted exhibition tickets, and even museum store discounts. For friends or family members who have never pursued a lifelong interest in painting or drawing, many area museums offer short courses in different media and methods. For about $100, you can encourage someone to finally pick up a paintbrush or throw some clay around. Museum stores often have the best art books, but chains have some great ones too, such as The Collected Essays and Criticism of Clement Greenberg, published by the University of Chicago Press; Ars Erotic--An Arousing History of Erotic Art by Edward Lucie-Smith; or Ralph Mayer's The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques.

If there's a bona fide artist on your Christmas list, painting, drawing, or sculpting supplies are always appreciated. One caveat, though: Artists can be pretty picky. If you don't know exactly what they want, don't even guess. Art-supply stores for the serious artist are in short supply in the metroplex, and some of them offer outrageously small quantities of materials at higher-than-average prices. Asel Art and Binders in Dallas, Asel in Fort Worth, HMS in Denton, or MJDesigns anywhere have fairly decent selections of high-quality sable brushes, for example, but their unit prices are often two or three times the going rate found in mail- or phone-order supply houses. Utrecht in New York is one of the best art-supply sources, with outstanding quality and buy-direct savings. Call them for a catalog at (800) 223-9132. Trinity Ceramics in Dallas and Texas Pottery Supply in north Fort Worth are purveyors of plaster, clay, and all sculpture accoutrements, including reference books.

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Annabelle Massey Helber

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