Go local. Ride, walk or take the bus to Spokane, Coeur d'Alene and Sandpoint where the selection of galleries within walking distance of each other is ideal. In Spokane, try Artist's Tree, Artisan's Wares or Pottery Place Plus. The Art Spirit, Angel Gallery and Northwest Crafts in Coeur d'Alene are within walking distance along Sherman, while in Sandpoint, browse Timberstand Gallery and the Good Works co-operative. Don't want to leave your comfy chair? You can't get much more fuel-efficient than downloading artwork directly from the Internet. Sites like www.artocracy.org, which was developed by Saranac Art Projects organizer Megan Murphy, enables you to purchase artwork for as little as $20. You can browse by color, subject, price and a growing number of artists.
Go classic. Artocracy and other sites help demystify the process of acquiring art. So does framing inexpensive, well-made reproductions of your favorite artwork (try Auntie's Bookstore and the Paper Garden in Spokane or Zany Zebra's in Sandpoint). Or, if you're really organized and plan ahead, pick up affordable pieces at Art on the Green or other local art events where prints and small originals can often be had for less than $20. If you want to frame the work before giving it as a gift, look for funky frames at the thrift store. If you write the measurements you need in your "to do" list, you can just keep an eye out for sizes needed (Martha Stewart ain't got nothin' on you.) You might need to do some touch-up or repainting, but what better way to individualize a gift and recycle an old frame at the same time?
Go recycled. Art can be rough on the environment (think solvents and synthetic pigments). Some artists, however, create work that is more in tune with nature. Ceramicists, for example, and woodworkers, glassblowers, metalsmiths, and textile artists all rely on natural materials. Some artists actually recycle other materials into their art, including Rik Nelson, whose mixed-media collages utilize mostly cans and other metal containers. Glenn Grishkoff uses both manmade and natural materials to create handmade brushes that adorn the walls of the Art Spirit Gallery in Coeur d'Alene (www.theartspiritgallery.com), as well as the Outskirts Gallery in Hope, Idaho. Grishkoff combs the beach for washed-up bamboo and driftwood and has been known to use fur from roadside casualties to create functional works of art.
Go giftless. Besides using recycled materials in his work, Grishkoff teaches workshops on making your own brushes and handmade shoes, illustrating yet another way to give the gift of art: Create an experience your friends and loved ones will always remember. Other possibilities include a class on glassblowing at Erlendson Art Glass in Coeur d'Alene (www.erlendsonartglass.com) or tickets to Inland Crafts' November sale (www.inlandcrafts.org). You can help support the arts and community both by supporting local arts fundraising events, including the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture's annual Works From the Heart auction (www.northwestmuseum.org) and mARTiGras (www.artsincda.org), which raises money for Coeur d'Alene's Art on the Edge program for at-risk youth. Finally, share your love of the arts by offering your time as the tour guide for one of the many local arts events. Drive (in your most fuel-efficient vehicle) throughout the Inland Northwest to enjoy self-guided tours of local artists' studios (www.arttourdrive.org) or of "artwalk" events held throughout the year (www.artsincda.org/Alliance_events.html in Coeur d'Alene, www.spokanearts.org in Spokane).
When thinking about how to foster an appreciation of the visual arts among family and friends, get creative -- and go.
REUSE, RECYCLE, REGIFT
Remember what you were thinking when you opened that odd knick-knack from Aunt Bertha last Christmas? "What am I going to do with this?" Some people would answer that questions with, "Rewrap it and give it to someone else!" Tacky? Maybe. But regifting.com (yes, there's a Web site devoted to the subject) reports "more than half of adults surveyed by Money Management International find regifting acceptable." And there is some regifting etiquette to follow, according to regifting.com: Never regift handmade or one-of-a-kind items; Don't regift free promotional items; Gifts that are good candidates for regifting include good (unopened!) bottles of wine, new household items and inexpensive jewelry; Regift only new, unopened gifts in good condition; Never give partially used gift cards; And, of course, if you are going to regift, be sure you know who gave you the item, so you don't return something to the original giver.