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A donation to a local organization like the Springfield Ballet Company makes a wonderful gift.
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Artistry in giving
By Janet Seitz Carlson

December's many celebrations can be overshadowed by the anxiety of holiday shopping.  Sometimes that perfect gift reaches out, and a mental choir breaks into song, accompanied by rays of light. Other times the right gift remains elusive - or falls victim to the fate of a fruitcake.

But some gifts stand out and keep on giving (not fruitcake). A gift of the arts provides many gifts in return.

Various area arts organizations offer opportunities for family and friends to share events and performances, visual works, arts-related gift certificates and more. Financial support to an arts organization, perhaps given to honor someone who has everything, is the kind of gift that lasts long after the holidays. You can even give it to yourself for a tax deduction. Arts experiences provide both tangible and intangible ways of giving of the heart, mind and spirit.  

"Giving experiences are always a good alternative for those who have too much stuff," says the Springfield Art Association's Betsy Dollar, whose organization emphasizes history along with art in events such as its Holiday Victorian Tea. Gift certificates can be purchased for other teas, classes and film festivals, and memberships also can serve as gifts.

The association's Holiday Hall provides a creative venue for gifts, featuring works from area artists.

"Giving a gift of art makes a gift special," Dollar says. "The piece is unique ... chosen specifically for the recipient, with their likes, dislikes and passions in mind. It can be said that no one actually needs art like they need new shoes, but art feeds the soul and the imagination ... Christmas is a time that offers endless possibilities to revive the traditions and values of the handmade. You know with a quality, artisan-made item that it is made with love."

Artisan-created works can be found at downtown art galleries, many of which participate in Downtown Springfield Inc.'s Holiday Walks with extended shopping and dining hours. Participating arts venues include Robert Morris University Gallery, the Prairie Art Alliance (both H.D. Smith and Gallery II locations) and Studio on 6th. Many shops and restaurants also will feature live music, guest artists and holiday specials.

"Art is the most thoughtful of gifts," says The Blue Door co-owner Pat Thornton. "It is personal, it is not mass-produced and it always comes from the heart. As I like to say, 'For the art of giving!' Each artist creates their work from the core of their being, from their heart. What better gift to give?"

(A tip from this writer and artist: When you give a gift of art, consider explaining it, if it's not obvious, or what prompted you to think of the recipient. For many, art is enjoyed more when you know the story behind it.)

Stories are a way to bring people together, including those told through holiday performances. Springfield Theatre Centre presents "White Christmas," and the Hoogland Center for the Arts presents "It's a Wonderful Life - A Live Radio Play" featuring period radio commercials, a pre-show featuring classic Christmas standards sung by local talent and an old-fashioned audience sing-along, sure to get the most stressed-out shopper in the holiday spirit. 

The Springfield Ballet Company's annual holiday classic, "The Nutcracker," "is a tradition for many families at holiday time," says Julie Ratz, the company's artistic director. "Tickets to a performance ... are a great gift, as are ballet lessons for children."

For more gift-giving ideas, many groups offer season tickets or gift certificates. With many arts organizations challenged for funds, gifts of donations help assure these groups' viability and the benefits they return to the community.

Finishing out the holiday season is the longstanding Springfield Area Arts Council's First Night Springfield. The family-friendly, alcohol-free celebration of the arts has increased to eight venues this year, with 37 performances and some surprises in store. Proceeds from this event benefit the council's programs and services, funding resources and grants to area artists, arts organizations and social-service agencies with arts programming.

Penny Wollan-Kriel, the council's acting director, says, "What could be better than something involving the arts? It takes you from the ordinary and into the extraordinary - visually, auditorily, tactilely. Art is a gift that keeps on giving."    

Following are just some of the arts opportunities in the area.

Arts and fine crafts

  • The Blue Door: 627 E. Adams St., 753-0262  
  • Illinois State Museum, The Museum Store: 502 S. Spring St., 782-0979 
  • Prairie Art Alliance:  H.D.Smith Gallery, Hoogland Center for the Arts, 420 S. Sixth St., 544-2787; and Gallery II,  221-223 S. Sixth St.
  • RMD Gallery: 210 S. Sixth St., 525-4006
  • Springfield Art Association's Holiday Hall, through Dec. 18, 700 N. Fourth St., 523-2631 
  • Studio on 6th: 215 S. Sixth St., 522-8006



  • "Winter Wanderings: A Candlelight Concert," Illinois Symphony Orchestra, Dec. 3, St. Agnes Church, Springfield
  • "Happy Holidays, Illinois Symphony Orchestra," Dec. 18, Sangamon Auditorium at the University of Illinois Springfield, 206-6160.
  • Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony Winter Concert, Dec. 18, Sangamon Auditorium



  • "White Christmas," Springfield Theatre Centre, Dec. 3-5 and 10-12, Hoogland Center for the Arts, 523-2787
  • Victorian Holiday Tea, Dec. 11, Springfield Art Association, 523-2631
  • "The Nutcracker," Springfield Ballet Company, Dec. 11-12, Sangamon Auditorium, 206-6160
  • "It's a Wonderful Life - A Live Radio Play," Hoogland Center for the Arts, Dec. 17-19, 523-2787
  • First Night Springfield-Dec. 31, multiple venues, 753-3519
Nonprofit arts organizations
Contact for events, gift certificates and donations.

Story published Friday, December 3, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 7 )

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