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Life is Short, Art is Longing...

Last Minute Gift Guide

The Foundry's Artisans Market
New Buffalo Graphics

Consider the gift of local art from the city’s multitude of small galleries

The holidays are well upon us. Most of the cultural venues have posted their open houses for annual group shows and season themed exhibitions. Artists holding open studios with wine and cheese advertise their branding for commissions and special discounted pricing for reproductions of their original works. In other words, they follow the business model of every other sort of commercial venture.

The last three issues of Artvoice have pretty well covered the local shopping territory. I don’t know what purpose it would serve to reiterate all the aesthetic outposts available to persons still looking for that singular, magical gift of a painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, etc. that may just make the giftee truly happy, touched by one’s thoughtfulness or at the very least bemused with one’s presumption. Still, I do have a few brick-and-mortar enterprises that year-round have a particular quality of aesthetic I have found especially satisfying during the otherwise feverish onslaught of seasonal purchasing.

Ro (732 Elmwood Avenue at Breckenridge) is a home furnishing store featuring a range of furniture and home accessories with a tendency to Scandinavian design. (“Ro” means something like “calm” in Danish.) Until recently called Reimagine, the shop’s owners are going into their third year of presenting local artists on the walls of the store, providing an excellent opportunity to see how a particular artwork will go over the couch. Currently—and just in time for the viral video “What Does the Fox Say?”—the exhibition is Outfoxing Winter, recent work by Alix Martin, who is something of a fox herself.

The Foundry, a mixed-use artist collective between Masten and Jefferson Avenues on Northampton Street, will feature an open-house December 21, noon-3pm. For many years a laundry and dry-cleaning plant (with huge fans to prove it), the long white building became Buffalo Re-Use, then gradually morphed into a space-for-hire for artists studios and floating theater groups such as Dan Shanahan’s Torn Space and the redoubtable Bread and Puppet Theater out of Burlington, Vermont. Seasonal artist markets are opportunities to sample local artisan crafts, purchase homegrown produce and homemade pastries, and to hear jug band music in a barn-like atmosphere, right in the heart of the Fruit Belt.

A by-now-familiar fixture across from Hallwalls is the Starlight Studio and Gallery (340 Delaware Avenue). This social services venue provides dedicated day program art classes to adults with disabilities. The studio participants’ vibrant creations are exhibited and sold through the gallery shop, presenting a full range of imaginative artworks “beautiful, hysterical, and moving.” Peruse the gallery shop for mugs, t-shirts, and posters created by the Starlight artists.

Meridian West Gallery (1209 Hertel Avenue) is hosting the gallery’s first annual Holiday Exhibition. The gallery is a venue for local artists, and holds the cultural mantle aloft at the far west end of Hertel, nested among halal groceries and nail parlors. Galleryist George Grace also gives space for monthly poetry readings and musical events. This is a neighborhood needing the commanding aesthetic presence of a fine arts gallery.

Michael Morgulis’s shop, New Buffalo Graphics (1417 Hertel Avenue), is a calm port blocks from what has become a storm of consumer frenzy along Hertel Avenue. Kiki, his black Lab, greets customers with a friendly nose-nudge. The little store is well lit with racks of merchandise evenly spaced for easy perusal. Michael’s signature logo, the silhouetted striding buffalo, is available in various configurations in T-shirts, sweat shirts, and ball caps, along with greeting cards and limited edition prints. A graphic artist, designer, and poet for more than 40 years, Morgulis combines his personal written pieces with imagery devoted to, among other things, the bowling legacy of the Dude from The Big Lebowski. He also has framed color prints of singular perspectives of familiar Buffalo locales. There are always bowls of chocolates to eat while making a choice of a gift.

College Street Gallery (244 Allen Street) hosts exhibitions in conjunction with the neighborhood’s First Friday gallery walk. The longest-running co-operative artist venue in Buffalo is now in its 15th year, home to a stable of painters and photographers whose work spans images of every imaginable sort, from placid landscapes in acrylic to spray-paint on PlexiGlas, to robot avatars. Galleryist Michael Mulley presents weekly open-mic poetry readings and local musical fare along with the wall art. He will have special holiday hours at the gallery: Call 868-8183 for specific times. Exhibited artwork is reasonably (even often laughably) priced. This Saturday, December 21, 8pm-midnight, the gallery will host a street party to push the holiday envelope for last-chance gift giving.

Soon the whole year will be swiftly behind us and another heading our way at what, before seatbelts, they called “breakneck speed.” Galloping, in fact—2014 being the Chinese Year of the Horse.

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