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The art of shopping for affordable art

My favorite art has always been two things: One, out of reach. And, two, so totally out of reach that even the little me who makes-believe about being chateau-rich gets mocked by the still-intangible stable-me: She comes with pursed lips and excessive eye blinks for snooty effect.

Which is why, after a series of horrific events last year that made my skin hurt, I tried to grab everything that was out of reach by the neck. I ran more than two miles for the first time since fifth grade (a serious feat for someone with legs afraid of pavement). And I went art-crazy, scouring galleries and websites for affordable artwork.

Immediately I discovered a handful of pricey works so beautiful (and even ugly-beautiful) I wanted to buy them all. I wanted to hug their expensive, flawless little necks.

I found a few affordable pieces that made my heart flip; they now hang in my new sanctuary as lovely reminders of that time when things seemed far away but actually were nearby.

So if you’re looking to become a desire-tapping Stretch Armstrong this season, these overworked arms feel your pain. Which is why I bring you three galleries hosting holiday shows that feature affordable — or almost affordable — art by local beauty-makers. After all, ’tis the season to grab something by the neck and throttle it with your love, right? For those really wanting to spread the love, don’t forget that art makes a great gift, too.

My favorites
“Home for the Holidays,” Soo Visual Arts Center, 2640 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, Nov. 14-Dec. 31: Arterial images dressed up like Easter eggs (Bethany Kalk). Drippy abstracts soaked in the Earth (David Andree). And fanciful still-lifes decorated in Baskin Robbins colors (Erika Olson). These oh-so pretty pictures by more than 15 local artists aren’t necessarily kick-in-the-gut daring.

Still, many of these technically crafty and design-inspired pieces are downright fetching. Beautiful, even. They run the gamut from nostalgic to primal to as sweet as those chalky mints Grandma puts in a delicate dish on the coffee table every holiday. The kind you gobble up so you can see the gold-leaf flowers at the bottom of the bowl. If you think that all sounds a tad too sweet, remember that a daring work of fecal matter isn’t exactly something you could easily hand-wrap and bedeck with a bow.

MCAD Art Sale, 2501 Stevens Ave. S., Minneapolis, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1: Sometimes young artists are guilty of churning out that innocuous private-part painting that’s about as bold a statement as a bumper sticker. You know the unfortunate kind: all lingering post-pubescent anger and equally as embarrassing.

While there are sure to be a few not-so-nouveau bolds among the thousands (yes, thousands!) of pieces of art available for under $1,000 — from furniture to toys to sculptures to photographs — created by MCAD undergrads and alumni, any thrifty art shopper is sure to uncover something beautiful, affecting and/or, ahem, ballsy at this annual show. After all, this is where the much-touted multimedia artist Ernest Arthur Bryant was born only a few years ago.

Interact Center Holiday Sale, 212 Third Ave. N., Minneapolis, Dec. 1- Dec. 8: providing a showcase for artists with disabilities. This year, the gallery is hosting a holiday art sale of work by its fantastic, formally trained artists.

Angelus Nova
Courtesy of Inside Out Gallery

The shop will also carry its almost-famous holiday cards, featuring, among many other local card-makers, the artwork of John Pieper, who spent 20 years as a scientist and theologian before suffering a serious brain injury. His surreal print, “Angelus Nova,” (right) finds inspiration in the famous Klee painting “Angelus Novus,” an artwork so literary it has spawned poetry as moving and important as the piece itself.

Other suggestions?

Of course there are a handful of other great galleries selling their wares at affordable (or near-affordable) prices for the holidays.

Frank Stone Gallery and Minnetonka Center for the Arts also come to mind. For you arts-and-crafts aficionados, and for those local-only lovers, I’m wondering: Where do you find your favorite gifts of art?

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Rachel McElhany on 12/04/2007 - 08:06 pm.

    I have a whole basement full of affordable art all by the renowned Kansas City artist Travis McElhany. You can check him out at

  2. Submitted by John Pieper on 10/13/2009 - 02:25 pm.

    Dear Molly,

    Imagine how surprised I was to see your words! For those who don’t know, buying Art from Interact Center is a great way to feel good about where your money goes. My fellow disabled artists and I get paid for our work! Being at Interact is a Godsend! I hope you can write more about it.

  3. Submitted by Cynthia Moore on 10/14/2009 - 02:06 pm.

    Thanks for the great shopping ideas! I’d like to add one more:

    Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health
    Fine Arts Fundraiser & Award Celebration

    Friday, Nov. 13, 5 – 8 pm
    Salir a la Luz Gallery, Blair Arcade Suite 10
    (Down the Hall from Common Good Books)
    Selby & Western, Saint Paul

    Purchase original works by local artists or
    previously owned works donated by arts enthusiasts
    Add beauty to your home or office and
    awareness and compassion to your community

    Art Sale * Raffles * Wine * Cheese * Chocolates * Music
    More information at

    Artists: This is a great chance to donate & promote your artwork!

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