If the grim economic forecast has you reassessing your holiday giving, know that the gift of art is a far more solid investment than any financial derivative or arcane real estate scheme. Whatever your budget, these ideas will help you keep the 'bang' in your 'buck.'
Chicago Printmakers 19th Annual International Small Print Show The Chicago Printmakers Collaborative arts laboratory and storefront sits in the shadow of the Western Brown Line stop; its rich holiday show and sale is worth extending your commute. The affordable wares of more than 70 artists from across town and around the world, on sale through December 21, provide an education in print techniques like lithography, intaglio and photogravure. Their work spans medieval fantasies to modern realities, from the soothing to the severe, from the silly to the sublime.
ThreeWalls Crystal Ball and Holiday Auction Sip absinthe in limited edition stemware, visit the fortune teller, show off that killer RenFair costume and, while you're at it, bid on dozens of boundary-busting art items at ThreeWalls' winter party. By taking artists under its proverbial wing, the West Loop gallery has built quite the fan club. Join it on Saturday, December 13 at 8 p.m. for a $30 admission fee—which includes a limited edition glass—or a $20 ticket—which does not, and bid on some pieces for everyone on your gift list. Proceeds support ThreeWalls' exhibitions and artist-in-residence programs.
The Palette & Chisel's New Year's Day Model Marathon If that special someone prefers an outlet for his or her creative expression to tchotchkes destined for a storage closet, plan a visit to Palette & Chisel's Model Marathon, 12 hours of models posing for sketches in the school's stunning Gold Coast Italianate home, for only $25. The price includes a free first lunch of 2009. For the more committed artist, give the gift of Palette & Chisel's winter watercolor or sculpture classes ($250-300 for 8-10 weeks).
Shoot an Iraqi by Wafaa Bilal AS the title suggests, this one may not exactly fill the recipient with holiday cheer. But sometimes the best gifts are the ones that make you think. The continuing violence in Bilal's Iraqi homeland and the average American's growing detachment from that conflict motivated "Domestic Tension," the author’s achingly brilliant 2007 exhibit (and worldwide sensation) at FLATFILEgalleries. The former Art Institute of Chicago professor confined himself to a single room, in the sight of a paintball gun controlled by his Internet audience. Their support and vitriol was beyond anything he could imagine, a repository for misplaced aggression and helplessness. His harrowing account of surviving Saddam's regime, and his month of staged violence in the West Loop, is available for $11.87 at City Lights Publishers.