The reasons why shopping local is a good idea have been floating around so much lately that anyone who cares about their community, or shopping, or both, knows the basic tenets by heart. Still, it never hurts to repeat them:
Shopping for local merchandise at small businesses close to home keeps your money on the block, sustains the community rather than corporations, helps provide jobs to your neighbors, and leaves a lighter carbon footprint.
Lucky for Denverites, our city already seems to support the trend. Boutiques and galleries touting local arts and wares are popping up everywhere, and people are flocking to handmade markets. They've learned that buying something original doesn't have to burn a hole in your pocket, and that these kinds of presents signal a return to the kind of giving that's much like looking someone in the eye and telling someone that you care about them. No gift-wrapped giant-screen TV will ever do that for you.
Denver's version of the national Buy Local Week, hosted by the Mile High Business Alliance, will serve as just such a reminder when it kicks off today at 1:30 p.m. with a Tennyson Street Local Flavor Guide release party and mayoral proclamation at Big Hoss Bar-B-Q. If you go, stick around and take the guide's advice: Tennyson Street, fresh off a summer-long construction project that obstructed access to many businesses along the stretch from 38th to 44th avenues, is a lovely stroll and ready for just such a boost.
After that start, how can you continue to honor Buy Local Week on Black Friday and beyond? To begin with, Saturday's Small Boutique Crawl will focus on some of the city's best little shops featuring local merchandise.
And here are ten more ways: EvB Studio Holiday Sale
Just say no to malls and big-box stores. On November 25, Black Friday proper, we'd much rather stand in line waiting for the doors to open at EvB Studio, where ceramic artist and teacher Marie EvB Gibbons will sell old and new works in a wide price range from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. That includes everything from her stylish Intention Cookie ornaments (clay fortune cookies with a message inside, $15 each or five for $60; order in quantity by December 1 for delivery by December 10) and grotesquely comical little clay finger puppets to elegant sculpted tiles and larger figurative pieces. Find EvB Studio in the shadow of the Oriental Theater; there's coffee around the corner at Tenn Street and great food on Tennyson Street.
Aurora Fox's Give Experiences, Not Stuff Shopping Fair
Not everyone wants an artsy or handmade gift; for someone you think might prefer a gift of services instead, the Aurora Fox theater is selling gift certificates from local businesses for all manner of experiences -- because, as you must know all too well, the best things in life aren't free. Choose from outdoor adventures, ballroom dancing classes, ninja training, a massage and all kinds of other personalized experiences during a party on November 25 from 6 to 9 p.m.; once you're in the building, you might also choose to take in a night of local theater, too: Escanaba: 1922, the last of a comic trilogy written by actor Jeff Daniels, shows at 7:30 p.m.
Celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe & Christmas Mercado, Chicano Humanities and Arts Council
The CHAC artist community comes together in a big way every holiday season for the annual Christmas-themed gallery show and the mercado, a grand gordita-full of giftable folk art, jewelry, prints, santos, artwork, pottery and more, as well as a zillion original pieces in the mold of the ever-devotional Virgen de Guadalupe, surrounded by her classic spray of spiny rays. The annual show is a little miracle all its own, and you don't have to be Latino to appreciate its simple charm or reasonable prices. The show and mercado open on Black Friday, followed by a formal reception on December 2; also in December, CHAC will give back with a Fair Trade Market, as well. Shop CHAC's treasures through December 23. Denver Designers Market, Kinga's Lounge Denver style entrepreneur Monice McCarthy launched the Denver Designers Market last weekend, just in time for the holidays: The emerging designer showcase, set up inside the Colfax Avenue tavern and Polish eatery Kinga's (which is housed in what was once an early Denver mansion), features locally crafted jewelry, couture and more, from friendly folks whose work you might not have seen before. The market runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday; admission is free, and after shopping you can stay and try a cabbage roll, kielbasa or a friendly vodka shot. Home away from home -- with fashionable perks.
Jean's Jewelry Trunk Show, Ice Cube Gallery
Longtime Denver clay artist Jean Smith might be best known for her fun, flower-festooned ceramic sculptures and plaques. But on the side, she also makes jewelry, including many ethnic pieces utilizing African and Asian beads and adornments. Currently you can see Smith's more monumental clay works on display in Fathom This, a joint show at Ice Cube Gallery with sculptor Deborah Jang (they did a similar installation together last year); from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. December 2 and noon to 5 p.m. December 3, she'll also open up her jewelry trunk in the gallery for a holiday sale. It's just another heaping dish of local shopping -- with a side of art!
Fancy Tiger's Holiday Handmade Alternative Craft Fair, Sherman Street Event Center.
In just a few years, this enormous craft fair has become the standard-bearer in Denver, offering a changing palette of work from dozens of local artists and designers under the beautiful roof of the Sherman Events Center, a work of art in itself. Give yourself plenty of time to peruse this huge -- and often crowded -- market; it's not uncommon to want to visit and revisit your favorite vendors, and there's a lot of ground to cover. Holiday Handmade will be open from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, December 2, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, December 3, and admission is free; expect goodies and food-truck vittles to be available when you need a break. Bonus: The first fifty people through the door each day will score a goodie bag stuffed with little gifts from Denver Handmade Alliance artists. Holiday Mancraft, Ink Lounge Also on the docket for the afternoon and evening of of December 2, Holiday Mancraft at Ink Lounge will give equal time to male crafters and creators, who often seem to get the short end of the stick at most crafts fairs. A select group of Denver men will serve up prints, sculpture, calendars, jewelry, posters, woodwork of all kinds, magnets and more; cupcakes, wine and beer are also on the agenda, until it's all gone. Mancraft flexes its muscles from 4 to 10 p.m.; let's hear it for equal time.
Craftivus, Mona's Cafe
Also on December 2 and 3, and just a hop, skip and jump from Holiday Handmade, you'll find Craftivus, a cozy little craft and designer showcase that comes with cocktails, if you want one. Craftivus goes down at Mona's Cafe from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, with styles by Studio Yoshida and Melissa May, Giddyup men's vintage, jewelry by Phryne Metal, accessories by ChickenMouse and more. It gives a whole new meaning to "Shop till you drop."
NEXT Gallery Holiday Show and Sale
Artists at Next Gallery will uphold the tradition of the holiday art extravaganza by hosting a blowout show of affordable fine art, prints, cards, toys, ceramics and more. It's the perfect place to pick up something for the collector on your list -- without blowing the bank -- and maybe have something left over for yourself. The Holiday Show and Sale starts December 2 with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m.; NEXT is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the shopping season, and the show continues through January 8.
Wonderland, Downtown Aurora Visual Arts
Finally, DAVA, the Aurora gallery/workshop that pairs at-risk kids with artist/mentors, will kick off its annual holiday show December 10, with a reception from 4 to 8 p.m. Featuring both student works and pieces by the respected local artists who work with them, this year's show, Wonderland, includes everything from wooden birdhouses to wine-cork necklaces by the kids, along with a selection of prints by Joe Higgins, ceramics by Christine Boyd and Alberto Veronica, and wood assemblages by Chris DeKnikker. Wonderland continues through January 6, but the best pickings will be at the opening. Nice bonus here, too: Proceeds benefit DAVA programs.
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